MLB Rankings: Baseball’s Greatest Hits of Week-20

BALTIMORE, MD - AUGUST 11: Baltimore Orioles third baseman Rio Ruiz (14) is doused with liquid after hitting a game winning two run home run against the Houston Astros on August 9, 2019, at Orioles Park at Camden Yards in Baltimore, MD. (Photo by Mark Goldman/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
BALTIMORE, MD - AUGUST 11: Baltimore Orioles third baseman Rio Ruiz (14) is doused with liquid after hitting a game winning two run home run against the Houston Astros on August 9, 2019, at Orioles Park at Camden Yards in Baltimore, MD. (Photo by Mark Goldman/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images) /
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(Photo by Rick Ulreich/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
(Photo by Rick Ulreich/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images) /

MLB Rankings: Greatest Hits in Week-20

5. Lane Thomas, 59 percent

If the St. Louis Cardinals win the NL Central this season, they’ll have the Pittsburgh Pirates to thank.

The Cardinals have played the Pirates 16 teams so far in 2019 and won 12 of those 16. But it’s not like St. Louis has abused its weaker NL Central brethren. Seven of the 12 Cardinal wins came by two runs or fewer, and in six of those seven Pittsburgh either led or held a tie during the game’s late innings.

Sunday’s 11-9 Cardinal victory at Busch Stadium is the prototype. Behind Josh Bell’s two home runs and four RBIs, the Bucs led 8-4 heading into the bottom of the seventh and appeared solidly on their way to a rare win in the teams’ series.

It was not to be. With one out, Paul Goldschmidt tapped Pirate pitcher Kyle Crick for a looping single, advancing to third on Marcel Ozuna’s line drive hit. One out later, Crick hit Yairo Munoz with a pitch, loading the bases and bringing Andrew Knizner to the plate representing the tying run. Crick hit him as well.

Pirate manager Clint Hurdle progressed as far as the dugout’s top step before Crick halted him with a stare and a motion. One out away from escaping with a three-run lead, Crick took on Lane Thomas, whose earlier triple had produced a run.

Crick and Thomas staged a six-pitch smackdown that ran the count to 3-2. The seventh pitch was a four-seam fastball toward the plate’s inside edge, and Thomas met it squarely. Four hundred and ten feet later, Thomas crossed the plate with a center field grand slam that gave St. Louis a 9-8 lead. The Cardinals held on to win 11-9.