Pirates take battle of bullpens in improbable win

Unbelievable.

Though he said otherwise in his press conference, that was the one word Clint Hurdle repeated on the field as he stood on the third base line with his cap propped up in the air and his head shaking back and forth.

Hurdle could have been shocked that the Pirates finally scored multiple runs in a game. He could’ve been shocked that they salvaged a game from the Reds in the series. Or, like anyone else who witnessed the moment, he could have still been awestruck by the Garrett Jones two-run, game-tying, Allegheny-soaked home run from the eighth inning.

But the most likely explanation for Hurdle’s bewilderment is that he avoided having to insert Mike Zagurski, who was warming up in the bullpen during the bottom of the 11th, into a tied ballgame.

Hurdle can thank Travis Snider, whose soft liner rose just over Cesar Izturis at second base and scored Russell Martin to give the Pirates a 5-4 victory.

Had he entered the game, Zagurski would have been the sixth Pirate reliever to pitch. The five who did appear, though, were masterful, shutting out the Reds for 10 innings:

  • Vin Mazzaro: 3 IP, 2 H, BB, 0 ER, K
  • Bryan Morris: 3 IP, 0 H, 0 BB, 0 ER, 0 K
  • Mark Melancon: IP, 2 H, BB, 0 ER, 2 K
  • Jason Grilli: IP, 0 H, 0 BB, 0 ER, 3 K
  • Justin Wilson: 2 IP, 1 H, 0 BB, 0 ER, 3 K
  • TOTAL: 10 IP, 5 H, 2 BB, 0 ER, 9 K
  • Jeanmar Gomez started the game and lasted one inning — allowing four earned runs on six base runners — before exiting with forearm tightness.

    Whether or not the injury was the cause of his ineffectiveness, Gomez could soon find himself competing for a rotation spot with Charlie Morton and James McDonald due to return.

    For now, though, Gomez should feel lucky to have been bailed out by the bullpen and timely hitting from Jones and Pedro Alvarez.

    In the second inning, Alvarez homered for the first time since hitting two in Milwaukee on May 25. His blast kept the Pirates within three runs after falling behind early.

    Starling Marte walked twice and was also hit by a pitch twice, breaking a dry spell of failing to consistently reach base. Obviously you’d like to see Marte collect hits, but his approach must improve if teams are going to start throwing to him in the strike zone again — and today was a solid start to that refinement.

    The Pirates should feel fortunate to escape this series — and this game in particular — with a win. Not often can a team rely on its bullpen for 10 innings, but the Shark Tank hasn’t been your typical group of relievers so far.

    Thankfully Dusty Baker refused to use Aroldis Chapman in a non-save situation and the Pirates took advantage of facing the weaker options.

    Pittsburgh doesn’t have time to relish in the improbable victory, as the team heads to Atlanta for a three-game set. The Pirates will need tomorrow’s starter, A.J. Burnett, to pitch deep into the game and give the bullpen a well deserved break after today’s effort.

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    By tyle23r

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