On the morning of July 26, 2011, the Pirates were 53-47, owned a share of first place in the National League Central and were on an 18-10 run. That night (and the following morning), Pittsburgh lost to Atlanta, 4-3 in 19 innings. They never recovered from the defeat, going 19-42 for the rest of the season.
Such a dramatic benchmark contest and its subsequent slide certainly has no predictive value. But those events can serve as an interesting backdrop to whatever experiences the Cardinals and Pirates may endure over the next six weeks after the Pirates defeated the Cardinals, 6-3, in 19 innings on Sunday.
Some notes on the game:
The Pirates and Cardinals combined to use 44 players, including 16 pitchers. In all, 574 pitches were thrown.
Catcher Michael McKenry caught the full game for the Pirates. Cardinals backstop Yadier Molina went the first 17-plus innings before being removed for a pinch-runner.
McKenry and Cardinals third baseman David Freese each went 0-for-8. Before McKenry, the last Pirates player to go hitless and have at least eight at-bats was Johnny Ray on June 21, 1985. Before Freese, the last Cardinals player to do it was Luis Alicea on May 14, 1988.
Jaime Garcia started for the Cardinals and went the first eight innings, striking out 10 and walking none. Garcia, who was also the starter in a Cardinals 20-inning loss to the Mets in 2010, became the first Cardinals southpaw since Rick Ankiel in 2000 to reach double digits in strikeouts while not issuing a walk.
Pedro Alvarez hit a solo homer in the 19th to give the Pirates a 4-3 lead. It was the Majors' first home run in the 19th inning or later since Mike Cameron hit a game-ending shot for the Mariners in the 19th on Aug. 1, 2000. Dating back to at least 1916, no Pirates player before Alvarez had homered in the 19th inning or later.
Rays complete sweep
The Rays defeated the Angels, 8-3. Batting fourth, Evan Longoria went 1-for-4 with a run scored and a walk. Longoria has played 35 games this season, and the Rays are 25-10 in those 35, averaging 5.2 runs per game. In the 86 games he has been out, the team is 42-44 and has averaged 3.9 runs per game.
In the four-game sweep -- the first ever by the Rays against the Angels -- Tampa Bay outscored Los Angeles, 37-14. According to the Rays' press notes, the 37 runs were the most ever for the club in a four-game series, eclipsing the 35 tallied in a four-game set against the Athletics in 2007. The Rays had entered the series with the third-fewest runs scored in the AL.
The Rays took nine of 10 and outscored the Angels, 55-22 in the season series.
With the three runs allowed, the Rays own a 2.36 ERA in 35 second-half games.
A's shut out Cleveland
Coco Crisp went 3-for-5 with five RBIs and gave Jarrod Parker (six hits in eight innings) more than enough offense as the Athletics blanked the Indians, 7-0.
Crisp was the first Athletics leadoff hitter to drive in five or more runs since Billy McMillon in 2003. Since 1918, Crisp was the sixth different A's leadoff hitter to have a five-RBI game. Eddie Joost had five of them, and Rickey Henderson, Ernie Young and Terrence Long each had one.
The Athletics have 11 team shutouts this season -- third-most in the AL. Parker has four games in which he has finished with at least six scoreless innings; those four tie him with Bartolo Colon and Tommy Milone for the most on the A's staff.
Bryce Harper went 2-for-4 with his sixth triple and 12th home run as the Nationals defeated the Mets, 5-2. Harper has 34 extra-base hits this season, the eighth-most ever by a player in his age-19 or younger season.
The most extra-base hits by a player in his age 19 season or younger belong to Mel Ott (48 in 1928), Phil Cavarretta (48 in 1935), Tony Conigliaro (47 in 1964), Buddy Lewis (40 in 1936), Ken Griffey Jr. (39 in 1989), Robin Yount (38 in 1975) and George Davis (37 in 1890).
Suzuki leads Yanks
In New York's 4-1 win over Boston, Ichiro Suzuki homered twice among his three hits, Derek Jeter doubled twice among his three hits and Hiroki Kuroda allowed one run in eight innings for his 12th win of the season.
In 26 games since joining the Yankees, Suzuki is batting .322 with five doubles, a triple and three home runs and is averaging one extra-base hit for every 9.67 at-bats. During his 95 games with Seattle, Ichiro batted .261 and averaged an extra-base hit every 16.75 at-bats.
Jeter's career hits total rose to 3,251 and he moved to within one of matching Nap Lajoie for 12th on the all-time list. The doubles gave him 36 extra-base hits this season, tied for the fifth-most in history by any shortstop in his age-38-or-older season. Rabbit Maranville had 36 in 1930 and Omar Vizquel had 36 in 2006.
Kuroda -- seventh in the AL with a 2.96 ERA -- has had 10 games this season in which has finished with at least seven innings and no more than one run allowed. Those 10 games are tied for the third-most in the Majors and represent the most by a Yankees right-hander since Mike Mussina had 14 such games in 2001.
Here and there
Chad Billingsley (three hits in seven innings) and two relievers combined on a three-hitter as the Dodgers picked up their eighth team shutout of the season, beating Atlanta, 5-0. From June 16-July 7, Billingsley made five starts, lost all five, and posted a 6.21 ERA. After that fifth start, he went on the disabled list. Since returning, he has made six starts, won all six, and posted a 1.30 ERA. Billingsley is the first Dodgers pitcher to record a win in six consecutive starts since Kevin Brown had a seven-start winning streak in 2003.
Jeremy Guthrie took a no-hitter into the seventh inning but settled for no decision as his Royals defeated the White Sox, 5-2. Guthrie went 7 2/3 innings innings, allowing two runs, both of them unearned. He became the third pitcher in franchise history to put together three consecutive starts of seven-plus innings and no earned runs allowed. Bret Saberhagen set the mark in 1989 and David Cone matched it in 1994.
Aaron Hill homered twice and doubled in a three-hit, two-RBI performance as the D-backs enjoyed an 8-1 win over the Astros. With 30 doubles, five triples and 17 home runs, Hill's 52 extra-base hits are the second most in the Majors by a second baseman.
Roger Schlueter is senior researcher for MLB Productions. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.