FORT MYERS, Fla. – The Pirates bats continue to heat up this spring. The Buccos plated seven runs off 10 hits off the Boston Red Sox’s pitchers at jetBlue ballpark under the lights in Fort Myers, Fla. on Friday. For the fifth straight game, the Pirates have had at least 10 hits.
“It’s a good sign,” Manager Clint Hurdle said. “We were challenged last year offensively. Guys are working hard. They have been very much aware of the need to connect the dots from the top of the lineup to the bottom of the lineup, to take better ownership with their bats. So far we’re doing that.”
Entering tonight’s action, Pittsburgh was third in the National League in team batting average (.313). The Pirates also have three Bucs in the top 10 in the N.L. in avg –Starling Marte (.692), Yamaico Navarro (.500), Alex Presley (.500).
“Andrew [McCutchen] swung the bat well tonight,” Hurdle said. “He really did. We had a number of guys come to the plate, arrive on time, hit the barrel to some balls.”
With a 1-0 lead in the 3rd inning, infielder Jordy Mercer was hit by a pitch from Boston’s lefty Clay Buchholz. After being examined by trainers, he remained in the game. Quickly after, Mercer swiped second base and scored when Andrew McCutchen hit a monster RBI double, which hit off the ledge on top of the Green Monster in left –just shy of a home run.
“I’ll take a double,” McCutchen said of hitting off the green monster in left field. “It gave me a couple hits. Anything that gives me some hits, I’ll take it. I still got the job done. Still got some runs in.”
McCutchen, who finished the day 3-for-3 with a run, two doubles and two RBI, has been locked in this spring and said contributes his success to his offseason workouts.
“It just goes with what I did this offseason to get ready for this year,” McCutchen said. “I worked hard this offseason. I just believed in what I did this offseason was going to take care of itself.”
“For the last month and a half, I went down to Bradenton and worked out at IMG Academy. Those guys worked me pretty hard to get me to where I need to be –get me stronger, get me quicker. I just worked there everyday at a 100 percent level. I had some guys there to push me. I knew coming into spring training that I was going to be ready to go.”
The Pirates tacked on four runs in the 5th inning, Catcher Eric Fryer leading off with a bunt single.
“Fryer’s a very athletic guy,” Hurdle said. “He isn’t just a catcher. He’s convertible. He’s an outfielder. He’s played the game. It’s one of the things we’re working on, just trying to take advantage of situations.”
With one out, Jose Tabata, Clint Barmes and Andrew McCutchen combined to hit three straight RBI doubles off reliever Vincente Padilla. Garrett Jones picked up a RBI of his own with a knock into right field for the fourth run in the frame.
“All the things we’ve talked about him going to work on this spring, he’s taken care of,” Hurdle said of McCutchen’s three hit night. “He’s been more aggressive on the bases. Even as quick as he is, and agile as he is, he spent a lot of time on that to improve. And he’s stronger. He put on a few pounds. He has more strength. He was very conscious of his offseason workouts. A little bit of a different set up at the plate. He seems to be covering the ball well. He looks really good right now.”
The Pirates scored the seventh and final run in the 6th inning when Tabata picked up his second RBI double of the game.
Right-hander Sharion Martis tossed two scoreless frames, giving up two hits and struck out one in his first start (second appearance) of the spring. Martis threw 36 pitches, 20 for strikes.
“Pretty good outing,” Martis said of his performance. “I’m very happy with it.”
“He’s in the mix [for the bullpen],” Hurdle said. “We actually wanted to look at him, stretch him out more. When we acquired [A.J.] Burnett, that landscaped changed a little bit. But we’re keeping him involved. We like the arm. We like the young man. Our scouts have been on him for a while. He was very good down tonight. Pace was quick. He painted himself in some corners with three ball counts. All three of them he was able to come back and get the hitter. It was another good effort from him.”
Facing a tough Red Sox lineup that included such players as Kevin Youkilis, Dustin Pedroia and David Ortiz, Martis looked confident on the mound.
“It’s a good team,” Martis said. “They’re all good hitters, so I challenged them.”
Martis, who signed a minor league deal with the Pirates over the offseason, spent the 2011 season with Double-A Harrisburg. Martis posted a 8-6 record with a 3.05 ERA over 23 starts (133.0 innings).
“I’m competing for the reliever spot, but if I have a chance as a starter, I’ll take it. I like starting,” Martis said.
If the 25-year-old righty doesn’t make the club out of spring training, Martis said he will be a starter in the minors –what he prefers doing. Martis spent the offseason pitching winterball in both Venezuela and Panama and said he had only one month off.
“Kept working hard. Did my long toss,” Martis said. “It wasn’t really rest.”
During his two scoreless frames, Martis said he was focusing on his mechanics. During his outing, Martis was working primarily on throwing his two seamer for strikes with confidence.
“Right now, I’m standing like I’m in the stretch. So it’s a little bit of a shorter step, quicker to the plate,” Martis siad. “It holds runners better and also makes me quicker to home plate.”
Red Sox’s slugging designated hitter, David Ortiz crushed a home run to right off reliever Tony Watson in the 4th inning. In his second inning of relief, Watson gave up a RBI single to Mike Aviles to score Josh Kroeger from second base.
Reliever Ryota Igarashi gave up a RBI single to Cody Ross in the 6th to score former Bucco infielder Pedro Ciriaco.
- Relief: Chris Resop IP, Tony Watson: 2IP, 3H, 2R, K, HR; Ryota Igarashi: IP, 2H, R, K; Doug Slaten:
- Mercer hit by pitch on the right wrist/hand in the 3rd inning by Clay Buchholz. After getting checked out by trainers, stayed in the game.
- Andrew McCutchen went 3-for-3 on the night with two doubles and two RBI. Both doubles hit off the green monster and would have been homers in most other ballparks.
- Jose Tabata went 2-for-4 with a run, two doubles and two RBI; Clint Barmes 2-for-4 with two runs and a RBI; Garrett Jones 1-for-3 with two RBI;
Saturday Game Info:
- The Pirates will play the Minnesota Twins at McKechnie Field tomorrow at 1:05. Lefty Erik Bedard will start for the Pirates against right-hander Terry Doyle.
- Following Bedard in relief are: Jo-Jo Reyes, Joel Hanrahan, Jason Grilli and Juan Cruz.
- Lineup vs. Twins:
- The Pirates will also have a B game at Pirate City tomorrow at 10 AM. Chris Leroux will start for the Bucs.
- Following Leroux in relief are: Duke Welker, Evan Meek, Jose Diaz, Mike Crotta and Daniel Cabrera.
- Lineup for the B game:
Starling Marte 8, Josh Harrison 6, Nick Evans 9, Matt Hague 5, Garrett Jones DH, Jeff Clement 3, Robbie Grossman 7, Michael McKenry 2, Jordy Mercer 4 (Chris Leroux RHP). Extras: Tony Sanchez