The game started out quietly enough. Alex Presley led off with a single, but Jeremy Guthrie tucked away the two hottest hitters in baseball, Neil Walker and Cutch, along with Garrett Jones on grounders to escape without a blemish.
McDonald, well, he'd like a mulligan for the first. Dexter Fowler led off by golfing a fastball into the seats in right field, his fourth leadoff home run of the season. After a four-pitch walk to Marco Scutaro, J-Mick fed a 2-1 fastball to Carlos Gonzalez, and he launched it into the bullpen in right center. Eleven pitches, 3-0.
With one away in the second, Pedro answered by taking a heater the opposite way for a solo shot, cutting into the lead a bit. But the second would be just as frustrating as the opening frame for McDonald.
Jordan Pacheco softly lined a 2-2 slider into left, deflected off Clint Barmes' glove. Josh Rutledge had the only hard hit ball of the frame when he ripped a fastball into right for a double. After Guthrie K'ed, Fowler drew a five pitch walk to jam the sacks.
J-Mick got his ground ball from Mario Scutaro, but it was hit too weakly to turn two, and Pacheco scored from third on the force. CarGo was intentionally walked to get to Andrew Brown, a recent AAA call-up. He notched his first hit (and RBI) of the season on a swinging bunt up the third-base line, scoring Rutledge and putting the Rockies ahead 5-1. Hey, it'll be a rope when he tells his grandkids about it, not a 50' squib.
Last year, you could have mailed this baby in, but the 2012 Bucs like taking their cuts. J-Mick started things off in the third with a line single on a 1-2 cutter. Two outs later, Guthrie worked around Cutch, walking him on four pitches. Garrett Jones was fed a first pitch change up, and lofted the ball into the Bucco bullpen, making it a 5-4 game. But hey, as long as there are only two outs...
Casey McGehee reached when 3B Pacheco let his grounder go through him. Pedro singled on a ball that hit an infield dirt clod and kicked away from SS Rutledge. Rod Barajas got plunked with a 1-2 slider to juice the sacks. Barmes capped the inning when he softly dropped a two-run dink into right center, and the Pirates were improbably ahead 6-5. That was it for Guthrie, who stomped into the dugout and ripped his shirt off, as prescribed in MLB Anger Management 101. Matt Reynolds whiffed J-Mick to end the strange frame.
McDonald held the Rox to a single in their half, and the Bucs went down in order in the fourth. Not so the Rockies. They held their own two-out rally. Scutaro walked on a 3-2 pitch with one away and went to second on a ground out to first. Brown then singled up the middle to knot the score at 6.
Reynolds struck out three of the four batters he had faced, but returned to earth with a thud in the fifth. Jones led off by taking a 2-2 slider the opposite way for a knock. Reynolds started off McGehee with an 88 MPH fastball, and it came down barely over the high fence in right to put the Bucs up 8-6. Hot Rod added another tally when he cranked a 2-1 heater over the left field wall. That brought on Mike Eckstrom, who got the last two outs.
That was also the curtain call for McDonald. He lasted five innings, allowing six runs on nine hits and four walks with two K, tossing 108 pitches. Brad Lincoln took the bump for Pittsburgh. The game went quietly into the bottom of the eighth, with neither team threatening.
Jason Grilli was on the hill for Pittsburgh, and walked Mike Cuddyer on five pitches. After an out, Scutaro singled at the end of an 11 pitch at bat. Tony Watson got the call against CarGo, and his weak roller advanced the runners to second and third. Brown, who had three hits, was up, but he went down swinging on three pitches.
That would be the last hurrah for both clubs; the Bucs left Jones at second in the ninth, and Hanny finished things up with a clean frame and a pair of strikeouts for his 26th save. It wasn't an artistic success, but it was a W for McDonald, his tenth of the season.
Pirate pitching hasn't been all that lately; walks are becoming quite the problem. Maybe it's Coors, maybe its just July fatigue. At any rate, it was just good enough to take another series, and that's what the Pirates need to focus on right now while the FO determines the August roster.
The Bucs have a day off tomorrow, then Friday Miami's Ricky Nolasco and Kevin Correia hook up at PNC Park.
- Neil Walker went 0-for-4 today, ending his 17 game hitting streak. So did Cutch, who also went 0-for-4 and lost his eight game string.
- Today was the fourth time the Pirates connected for four home runs this campaign. That's one more than they had the three previous seasons combined. The Pirates have 101 long balls after today's match; they hit 107 homers in 2011.
- We're clueless as how it all works, but the Pirates won the second pick in Round A of competitive balance lottery. So they'll get to pick second in the sandwich round, giving them three selections before the second round - this one, their regular 2013 one based on finish, and the Appel compensatory pick.