Pirates spin a winning curve in 19th inning

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Pedro Alvarez celebrates after his game-winning homer in the 19th inning on Sunday.Just over a year ago, the Pittsburgh Pirates were one of the surprise teams in the majors, tied for first in the NL Central with a 53-47 record after a win over the Atlanta Braves on July 25, 2011.

The next day the Pirates lost 4-3 in 19 innings in Atlanta on a controversial call at the plate. They went into a tailspin following that loss, finishing the season 19-42 after July 26, the worst record among NL teams in that span.

Pirates 19-Inning Games
Last 2 Seasons

Fast forward to August 19, 2012 and the Pirates once again are one of the surprise teams in MLB. They are in possession of the second wild card at 66-54, as they played the rubber game of a three-game series with the St. Louis Cardinals.

The Pirates soon found themselves in another 19-inning game, and in a sweet reversal of fortune, scored three runs in the top of the 19th inning to win 6-3, further strengthening their bid for a postseason spot.

Pedro Alvarez was the hero for the Pirates, becoming the first Pirate ever to homer in the 19th inning or later, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. The last major-league player to homer that late in a game was Mike Cameron for the Seattle Mariners in a walk-off win over the Boston Red Sox on August 1, 2000.

Pedro AlvarezAlvarezThe game-winning home run came on a curveball from the southpaw Barret Browning. Prior to that hit, Alvarez had just three singles in 32 career at-bats (.094) ending in a curveball from a left-handed pitcher. He had missed on nearly half his swings and almost half of the outs he made were strikeouts.

The Elias Sports Bureau tell us that the last team to score at least three runs in 19th inning or later was the Montreal Expos against the Houston Astros on July 7, 1985. The last time the Pirates did that was July 31, 1912 at the Boston Braves.

The game was the longest game ever played between the Pirates and Cardinals franchises, according to Elias. Sunday was the 2,306th game played between the two rivals since they both joined the National League in 1892. They played 76 additional times in the American Association from 1882-1886.

With the win, the Pirates improved to 4-0 in extra innings. They are the only undefeated team in extras this season. The Cardinals dropped to 3-9 in extra-inning games. Only the Astros at 1-11 have a worse record in extras this season.