Starters Jeff Karstens and Jaime Garcia engaged in a pitchers' duel for most of the first nine innings, but that was quickly forgotten, as the two teams headed into extras with the score tied at 2-2. Kevin Correia pitched the ninth and 10th innings for the Pirates, while Mitchell Boggs pitched the 10th for the Cards.
The Bucs nearly scored off Edward Mujica in the 11th when Josh Harrison tripled with one out, but pinch-hitter Neil Walker hit into a double play. From there, the Bucs turned to Chris Resop, who pitched three scoreless frames. Then Joel Hanrahan pitched the 14th, and Jared Hughes came on in the 15th.
In the 16th, Garrett Jones led off with a double, but Jose Tabata botched a sacrifice attempt, getting Jones thrown out at third, then got thrown out himself on a hit-and-run.
The Bucs finally scored in the 17th, when starting pitcher James McDonald (a former minor-league outfielder) pinch-hit, singled, and eventually came home on Jones' infield single. But the Cardinals answered, when Yadier Molina singled and (thanks in part to a poor defensive play by Andrew McCutchen) eventually came around to score on a sacrifice fly by Tony Cruz.
Another starting pitcher, Wandy Rodriguez, came in to pitch in the bottom half of the 18th. (Rodriguez was scheduled to start on Monday; it remains to be seen how the Pirates will handle that.) Rodriguez pitched a scoreless inning, and then, in the top of the 19th, Alvarez hit a solo homer to center off rookie reliever Barret Browning, giving the Pirates a 4-3 lead. Browning then completely fell apart, putting three runners on before allowing a two-run single by McCutchen.
That put the Pirates up three, and Rodriguez was able to shut the Cards down for another inning, sealing his first victory as a Buc since being acquired in a trade with the Astros about a month ago.
The Pirates, of course, lost a crucial 19-inning game last year in Atlanta when umpire Jerry Meals blew a call at the plate. The Bucs collapsed shortly thereafter. The ending of Sunday's game wasn't nearly as dramatic, but it's still noteworthy that the Pirates managed to win a key 19-inning game in the midst of a pennant race. The Pirates are now a game up on the Giants and two up on the Cardinals in the race for the second wild card spot.
For more on the Pirates, check out Bucs Dugout.