The Bucs must like the number four. They rode a pair of four-spots to victory yesterday against the Rox, and started off against Aaron Harang and the Padres by putting up a quartet in the first.
Xavier Paul, taking Jose Tabata's spot while his hammy is sore, grounded a single into right; the red-hot Garrett Jones drove a ball inside the right field foul pole to make it 2-0. Neil Walker, who had singled, sat at third with two away when Chris Snyder bombed his first of the year into the left field seats.
James McDonald liked the lead; he got the Padres, hitting just .211 as a team, 1-2-3 in their half. Harang was tough in the second; he struck out the side, leaving McCutch, who had walked and stolen a base, dusting himself at second.
J-Mac got to five in a row before Orlando Hudson grounded a single just past a diving Walker. He stole second when Ronny Cedeno slapped a tag on him; if he would have held the glove on Hudson, he would have had him as he slid a bit off the base. No matter; Brad Hawpe popped to center.
Harang continued to muffle the Buc bats, with another clean frame and McDonald matched him in the third. The Bucs went quietly in the fourth; the Padres made a little noise. A line single and a two-out walk put ducks on the pond, but McDonald broke Hudson's bat and got him on a pop to third. The key to the frame was Jone's catch for the first out, a nice running catch on a ball slicing away from him.
Pittsburgh tried to make some two-out lightning strike in the fifth. Paul legged out an infield single when he beat the pitcher to the bag and stole second; Jones battled back from an 0-2 count to walk. Walker's hopper up the middle was speared by Harang to end the frame.
San Diego tried to get on the board when Hawpe led off with a double into the right field corner and moved to third on a slow hopper to second. Pinch hitter Eric Patterson lifted a pop to medium right; Jones fired a one-hopper home to nail Hawpe thanks to a nice block by Snyder on a bang-bang play.
Cory Luebke took the hill for San Diego and picked up where Harang left off; he struck out two of the three Bucs he saw. The Padres cut the lead in half in their at-bat. Jason Bartlett lined a one-away single to right, and an out later Jorge Cantu took a high 2-2 heater over the left field wall, ending J-Mac's scoreless streak at eleven innings.
McDonald went six innings, giving up two runs on five hits, with a walk and five K's. He looked sharper today as he rounds himself into game condition, but the long ball - 17 of the 24 runs he's surrendered have been from homers - continues to plague him.
Cedeno started off the seventh with an infield single, but a pair of flies to right and a caught stealing - RC broke on the first move, and the play went 1-3-6 - kept the Pirates off the board again. Jose Veras came on to work the Padre half of the frame. He continued to be nasty, striking out a pair.
Luebke continued his mastery, getting the Pirates out in order; in three innings, he's faced nine batters. Now it was Chris Resop's turn.
Resop got a workout. With one away, he broke Will Venable's bat and got a soft hopper to short; Cedeno tried to bare hand it instead of gloving it, dropped the ball, and saw it generously ruled a base hit. An out later, after Venable stole second, Ludwick singled him home. A walk followed before he got Cameron Maybin to roll out to short. What should have been a 1-2-3 inning instead cost the Pirates a run and Resop 30 pitches to finish.
Ernesto Frieri took over for San diego; he walked all three batters he faced. No, that didn't load the bases. A failed hit-and-run with Overbay on first and Snyder at bat (Overbay and Snyder?) resulted in a caught stealing. Still, it was enough to get him the hook as Bud Black called on Luke Gregerson.
He walked Cedeno to load the bases. But he got pinch hitter Steve Pearce to K swinging and McCutch to hit a soft roller to short. How often do your first four batters walk and you don't score? It was Hanny time, against the Padres' 6-7-8 hitters.
Joel Hanrahan got the first two hitters easily. Nick Hundley lined an 0-2 pitch that was up and tailed into the middle of the plate into center for a single. Chase Headley followed with a ground ball to second. It bounced off Walker's glove and into short right to put runners on the corners; it too was ruled a base hit (gotta love home town scorers). Venable, first pitch swinging, tapped one to short; Cedeno fed Walker for the force and Hanny had his ninth save.
It was a struggle, and most of the bleeding acme from self-inflicted wounds. But the Pirates are doing just enough to win games this year; in seasons past, they would do just enough to lose them. And they're a game away from taking their fifth road series, which would better last year's disastrous record - in May.
Jeff Karstens will face Mat Latos tomorrow.
-- Hanrahan has nine saves; only his four-out save against the Cards was a clean outing.
-- J-Macs's heater sat at his usual 91-93 MPH, but he pumped up a couple, registering 95 twice and 98 once on the SD gun.
-- Evan Meek had tests on his shoulder done today, and the original diagnosis of tendinitis was confirmed. He'll rest and then begin rehab; there's no timetable for his return as his status is "week to week."
-- Dang, those folks in San Diego were quieter than ol' GW thought they'd be; he saw about three people singing along to the anthem. At least a lot of them brought flags. Yesterday's news, we guess...
-- It was a much better day for Jameson Taillon on the mound. He went four scoreless frames last night, giving up two hits and striking out six with no walks. He threw 52 pitches.
-- When the Bucs visited the SEAL home base this morning, they were met by John McTighe, a retired Navy SEAL captain, who is from Western Pennsylvania. He said “I’m so happy the Pittsburgh Pirates, of all teams, are here on the day after we caught that son-of-a-gun.” Except we don't thing he said "gun."
Ryan Doumit told Root Sports that the sailors seemed as excited about meeting the ballplayers as the players were to meet them. The meet-and-greet a good program, no matter what the world situation.