BRADENTON, Fla. – Right-hander James McDonald took the mound in the 6th inning with one out at McKechnie Field on Saturday. After retiring his first batter, pinch-hitter Travis Buck connected for a single into shallow center field for a hit — the first that McDonald had given up during his seven inning outing.
Immediately after giving up the single, the crowd at McKechnie gave McDonald a standing ovation.
“I didn’t know until they started clapping. When they started clapping, I was like, ‘What happened? Oh. I had a no-hitter?’ You’re not thinking about that. I was thinking about getting the ball down and try of induce contact early,” McDonald said.
The right-hander’s goal for his fourth Grapefruit League start of the spring was six innings and 90 pitches. McDonald was so efficient in his outing that he went out for a seventh inning after allowing just one hit. Pitching deep into games was an issue for McDonald last season with Pittsburgh, only throwing into the 7th inning just two times in 2011.
“I didn’t know what my pitch count was,” McDonald said. “[Pitching coach Ray Searage] just told me that you’re going out to do another one.”
On Saturday against the Astros, McDonald was impressive. In the 7th, Brian Bogusevic hit a single into right field to start the frame just the second and final hit McDonald would give up. He then swiped second base and advanced to third after J.D. Martinez hit a ground out. First baseman Brett Wallace hit a sac fly to center field to plate the first run of the game.
“We had a meeting this morning, kind of just saying to put it together, to start going out there and competing. For me, it’s not really the time for me to start working on things. That was earlier,” McDonald said. “Now it’s time to start putting all that work into game ready situations. So I went out there like it was a regular game and just attacked the hitter.”
Overall, McDonald allowed one run on two hits over seven innings with no walks and seven strikeouts. The righty saw just three base runners over his outing. The first came in the 3rd inning after Josh Harrison committed an error at short.
“It was a big step forward. I saw how important it was to throw strikes and keep the ball down, elevate when you need to. Just seeing what can happen when you execute, makes it just that much sweeter to keep doing what I’m doing,” said McDonald who was more aggressive this start.” I was just really going at guys. Here it is, if you hit it, hit it. If not, it’s going to be strike one. That’s the philosophy I was going with today.”
“Today he was really good,” Pirates Manager Clint Hurdle said. “He had a complete package out there. Really good fastball command. He was able to work the fastball in extremely well, away when he wanted to. The slider was a pitch in play for him today. The curveball was there. I think he threw seven change-ups as well. It was a really good mix of pitches. Very efficient. Real good to see.”
The Pirates plated two runs off the Astros’ starter Kyle Weiland to start the first inning. Alex Presley led off the frame with a bloop single into shallow left field. Josh Harrison continued his hot spring by hitting a double off the right field wall. And with two outs, Neil Walker ripped a two-run single into right field.
With a 2-1 lead and two outs in the 8th, first baseman Garrett Jones crushed a 2-1 pitch from the Astros’ reliever Daniel Carpenter for a two-run shot to right field. Jones has three long balls during Grapefruit League action this spring.
The Bucs took a 4-1 lead heading to the 9th inning, but the Pirates saw their lead blown late for the third straight game. Ryota Igarashi allowed back-to-back walks, then gave up a three-run homer to left field to pinch-hitter Scott Moore. With one out, Hurdle went to lefty Daniel Moskos who ended the frame tied at 4.
“It was another challenge for Iggy pitching two days in a row,” Hurdle said. “He wasn’t sharp. You’ve got to stretch these guys out. You’ve got to have some guys capable in your bullpen to give you multiple innings, and they’ve got to do it more than one time before the season starts when the games obviously have much larger significance.”
Lefty Kris Johnson, who signed a minor league deal with the Pirates over the offseason which didn’t include a spring training invite, took the mound in the 10th inning. After walking back-to-back Astros to start the inning, former Bucco Brian Bixer reached on an error by shortstop Josh Rodriguez, who was over from minor league camp, allowing the eventual wining run to score in the Pirates 5-4 loss to the Astros.
- Relief: IP, 2K; Ryota Igarashi: 0.1 IP, 2H, 3R, 2BB; Daniel Moskos: 0.2 IP, BB, 2K; Kris Johnson: IP, R, 2BB, 2K
- Josh Harrison went 2-for-4 and is now hitting .520 (13-for-25) in his 15 Grapefruit League games; Alex Presley went 1-for-3 and scored his team-leading 11th run in the 1st inning; Jose Tabata went 2-for-5 and now has seven hits in his last 15 at bats.
Sunday Game Info:
- The Pirates will face the Houston Astros in Kissimmee tomorrow at 1:05. Right-hander Brad Lincoln will get the start for the Pirates against lefty J.A. Happ. Daniel Moskos, Evan Meek, Jared Hughes and Chris Leroux are scheduled to follow in relief.