PITTSBURGH, Pa. — Right-hander James McDonald took the bump for game one of the double-header at PNC Park on Wednesday afternoon and pitched a gem. The right-hander took a no-hitter against the Colorado Rockies into the seventh inning, where he also allowed his first and only run of his outing.
“Once I got in the dugout, I said, ‘I had a no-hit. Two more innings is all I need,” McDonald said. “In the seventh inning you’re aware of it, but are you thinking about it pitch by pitch? No…The main goal is to win the game. I’d rather have the win then throw a no-hitter.”
The 28-year-old broke up a no-hit big with a base knock off San Francisco’s Matt Cain on April 13. He also took a no-hitter into the seventh during an outing during spring training.
“Maybe it might be telling you that I’ll throw a perfect game or something,” McDonald said with a grin. “I don’t know.”
McDonald needed just 11 pitches in the first inning with two whiffs looking on his fastball. It marked just the second time this season the Pirates have retired the side in the first inning. Only right-hander Kevin Correia, who pitched a 1-2-3 first inning on April 15 had thrown a perfect first inning over their first 17 games.
“That’s one of the things we need to all put together in a better place, the first inning,” Pirates Manager Clint Hurdle said. “We only had a couple of them 1-2-3 first innings throughout the first 16 starts. He knows where his improvement needs to be. And today should be a day that shows him, you know what? When I work quick and I’ve got my stuff, I’m really hard to hit. Let’s get after it. Lets be aggressive with it. He threw secondary pitches behind in counts at times. He had a very good breaking ball. Threw the changeup as well. As he’s thrown it all season. He went after people with the fastball. Threw it hand high and challenged some people today.”
McDonald cruised over his seven inning outing. After throwing four hitless frames, McDonald allowed his first base runner — a two-out walk to the Rockies starter Juan Nicasio in the fourth. The righty started the fifth inning with back-to-back walks, but got catcher Wilin Rosario to ground into a double play, and struck out Chris Nelson swinging to escape the inning to keep the no-hitter intact.
“Just aggressive,” McDonald said. “Going at guys. Didn’t matter if it was ball one or whatever it was. I was going at them with my best stuff. Just the confidence I have behind myself today got me that.”
After tossing six hitless frames, McDonald allowed his first knock in the seventh. Carlos Gonzalez, who previously struck out twice against McDonald, drew a leadoff walk. Troy Tulowitzki took a 1-1 curveball for an infield single to third base to break up the no-no. It was a tough break for Pedro Alvarez, who dove for the ball, but was unable to come up with the hard hit liner.
“I wasn’t thinking about it,” McDonald said of the no-no. “My main concern was keeping my team in the game.”
McDonald threw a wild pitch during his next at-bat to advance both runners into scoring position, and Jason Giambi hit a sac fly to deep center field to plate the first run of the game.
In his fourth start of the 2012 season, McDonald allowed just one run on one hit over 7.0 innings. He walked three and struck out eight. McDonald’s eight whiffs are a season-high (previously three) and also a team high, passing A.J. Burnett and Erik Bedard’s seven for most from a starter this season. The right-hander threw 101 pitches, 53 for strikes becoming the second starter to reach the 100 pitch mark (also Bedard).
“We didn’t get the job done on offense. That’s all,” Hurdle said. “It’s not a nail in the eye. We’re disappointed. We understand what’s at stake as well as anybody does. The pitchers know these guys are putting forward the effort, trying to get things right in the game and score runs. We need to improve as a ball club to put the three components together. That’s where we’re challenged right now. We were challenged a little bit last year. We’re working on it. I believe we’re going to do it.”
“But the thing is, rather than bemoan the offense, what I do is really build up the pitching and they job they do. A lot of times in our tearing down of one component, we don’t give enough credit to the component to what really is functioning well. James McDonald took it to a very good level today. Rhythm and pace was outstanding. Didn’t throw a very good number of first pitch strikes, had a large number of three ball counts but in-between all that, he was efficient, he was sharp, he was very, very good. That’s going to be a big building block for him moving forward.”
The Bucs bats combined for no runs on seven hits off the Rockies starter Juan Nicasio over six innings before finally plating a run off the righty in the seventh. Pedro Alvarez tied the game up at 1-1 to lead off the frame. He took a 1-1 changeup into the seats in right-center field for his third long ball of the season.
“I really wasn’t looking for anything,” Alvarez said. “I was just going out there trying to see the ball and just put a good swing. Not trying to do too much with the ball and put good contact on the baseball.”
“They swung the bat today,” McDonald said. “They put up hits. Just bad luck situations. They were up there fighting.”
Right-hander Chris Resop came in for relief in the eighth inning. After striking out his first batter, Resop hit pinch-hitter Eric Young, Jr. with a pitch. Marco Scutaro singled into left field to put runners on the corners. Manager Clint Hurdle called upon lefty Tony Watson to escape the jam. Tyler Colvin hit a sac fly to right to take a 2-1 lead in the eventual loss.
“It’s always difficult to get a loss,” McDonald said. “We fought. It was a close fought game. Couldn’t ask for more from the guys playing hard behind me.”
- Relief — Chris Resop: 0.1 IP, H, R, HB; Tony Watson: 0.2 IP; Jared Hughes: IP, H
- With the 2-1 loss, the Pirates fall to 7-10 on the season.
- Alex Presley extended his hitting streak to a career-best nine games with a leadoff single in the bottom of the first inning. He was caught attempting to steal second base with one out and Andrew McCutchen at the plate.
- Bucs had a rough time on the bases. Jose Tabata was caught trying to stretch a single into a double in the sixth. Clint Barmes was caught stealing second base in the seventh.