If you’re looking for signs of life from the Pittsburgh Pirates, and wondering if this team is a true contender, tonight would be a great game to make your case. The Pirates took on the Boston Red Sox, owners of the best record in the American League, and won 3-1 on a great team effort. The pitching staff struggled at times, but came up with the big outs each time. The offense didn’t capitalize on all of the major scoring opportunities they were faced with, but managed just enough runs to give the Pirates the win. And Joel Hanrahan…well, let’s just say a two run lead was a very comfortable situation with the way he’s been pitching this year.
Starting pitcher Paul Maholm got in to some tight spots throughout his five innings, although got out of all of them allowing just one run in 5.1 innings.
“He bent, but he didn’t break,” manager Clint Hurdle said about Maholm’s performance tonight. “He had to earn every strike he got out there tonight. In the situations with runners on, he was able to make pitches and end innings.”
Maholm walked leadoff hitter Jacoby Ellsbury, and two batters later allowed a single to Adrian Gonzalez. Matt Diaz misplayed the ball, contemplating a dive, before pulling up short and getting jammed up by the ball. That allowed Ellsbury to advance to third. A Kevin Youkilis groundout to third base brought in the only Red Sox run of the night.
Maholm ran in to trouble again in the third inning. After getting two outs to start the inning, he allowed back to back singles to Dustin Pedroia and Adrian Gonzalez. A walk to Kevin Youkilis loaded the bases. That brought up Darnell McDonald. Maholm led off with a ball, after a five pitch walk in the previous at-bat. However, two pitches later he got McDonald to ground out to Chase d’Arnaud at third base.
Pittsburgh took the lead in the bottom of the third. Ronny Cedeno started the inning off with a bunt single, which was ironic after Cedeno was benched a game for bunting with the bases loaded. Michael McKenry followed that up with a double, which got past a diving Mike Cameron, putting runners at second and third. After Jon Lester walked Paul Maholm to load the bases, Jose Tabata came through with an RBI single. Chase d’Arnaud followed with a double play, which gave the Pirates a 2-1 lead that they never relinquished.
Maholm ran in to trouble again in the fifth inning, putting two on with two outs before getting McDonald to fly out to center. In the sixth, he allowed a one out single to Jason Varitek, which brought on Chris Resop and ended Maholm’s night. Resop went 3-0 to Marco Scutaro, before battling back and getting him to line in to a 6-3 double play, catching Varitek running on a hit and run attempt.
Maholm ended the outing with one run allowed on six hits in 5.1 innings. He now has a 3.21 ERA this season.
“He’s been very tough, he’s competed all season long,” Hurdle said. “He gave us a chance to win a ballgame again.”
The Pirates added another run in the sixth inning. Neil Walker led off with a single down the third base line. The ball bounced off the third base bag, and was unplayable for a diving Kevin Youkilis. The next batter, Matt Diaz, hit a chopper right to Youkilis, who missed the play after a high bounce went off his glove. Lyle Overbay came through with the RBI, lining a single between first and second, with Diaz blocking a diving Adrian Gonzalez from any chance at the play.
Tony Watson and Daniel McCutchen combined for a scoreless seventh inning. Watson put two on with two outs, bringing up Youkilis. McCutchen came in, getting Youkilis swinging. Jose Veras came on to pitch the eighth inning. After two leadoff singles and a sacrifice bunt put the tying run on second, he found himself in a situation similar to the ones Maholm faced earlier. Just like Maholm, Veras didn’t break. He struck Marco Scutaro out looking on a curveball, with Scutaro ducking away from the same pitch that he ducked away from for strike one of the at-bat. Then came David Ortiz on to pinch hit. Clint Hurdle came out to the mound to visit Veras, and left him in, despite left hander Daniel Moskos warming up in the bullpen. The move paid off, as Veras got Ortiz to ground out to Ronny Cedeno, who was playing up the middle in the shift.
Joel Hanrahan came on for the ninth, and probably had the easiest inning of all Pirates pitchers, taking down the top of the Red Sox lineup in order to close out the 3-1 victory for the Pirates, pushing them one game above .500 again this season.
“We’re constantly hovering around .500. We’re 3 or 4 games back, whatever we are. They’re in first place. I think they’re the best record in baseball,” Paul Maholm said in response to how important this win was for the team. “It was an overall team effort win tonight.”
Chase d’Arnaud made his major league debut tonight, and had a pretty successful outing, going 1-for-3 with his first major league hit being a triple off of Jon Lester.
“Lester’s a really good pitcher,” d’Arnaud said about the hit. “It’s definitely something to build on, and it’s going to help me build my confidence in the long run.”
“Good for Chase,” Clint Hurdle said about his debut. “That’s a life long dream right there, since you’re probably six playing in the back yard, to go ahead and play against the big leaguers and for it to be against the Red Sox on a packed Friday night crowd.”