PITTSBURGH, Pa. — After walking off to the Philadelphia Phillies in the 10 inning on Saturday night at PNC Park, the club showed their resiliency yet again against the tough Philly team. The Bucs hit up their second straight walkoff win in the bottom of the 9th inning in front of 19,856 on Sunday.
Casey McGehee picked up his second double of the game into the gap into the notch in left center field to start the 9th inning. Josh Harrison, who pinch-ran for McGehee, advanced to third base after Alex Presley laid down a perfect sac bunt. With two outs, Andrew McCutchen hit a walkoff knock off the center field wall for the 5-4 win to take the first series of the season.
“I’ve seen fight. Nobody backing down. [We] keep grinding,” right-hander James McDonald said of the team’s resiliency this series. “That’s all I ask for from them. They’ve played great.”
“I do know our guys like to play,” Pirates Manager Clint Hurdle said. “And I do know they don’t get caught up in numbers, or on paper, because on paper, they might have a better team then us. They definitely have a larger payroll than us. But what we hold onto everyday is that we get to go play the game. And our guys love matching up. I do think there is something to be said for our guys still holding onto that. Not too many people believe in us, because there’s a whole lot of people that filled up this ballpark this weekend that do support us and believe in us.”
“But that mentality of us against the world, I think that works for these guys. I thought the resiliency showed up big time. We were never ahead today until we won. And to keep chipping away. We played through some adversity…James gave us a very good start, but everybody picked up, everybody just kept chipping away, chipping away. We know that we’ve go to play that gritty style of baseball to win games.”
Right-hander James McDonald allowed two runs on four hits over six innings. He walked two and struck out three batters while throwing 82 pitches, 51 for strikes.
With one out in the 1st inning, Shane Victorino hit a single up the middle off McDonald. After advancing to second on a groundout by Jimmy Rollins, Victorino scored after Hunter Pence ripped a RBI double down the left field line. The Phillies tacked on a second run after right fielder Hunter Pence took McDonald deep in the 4th on a 2-1 pitch over the 410 sign into the bleachers for his first long ball of the season.
Juan Pierre reached first base on a bunt single to start the sixth. Third baseman Pedro Alvarez ran after the ball up the line but his throw to first was wide, allowing Pierre to advance to second base on the error. Victorino followed with a sac bunt to push Pierre to third base with one out.
But McDonald was able to escape the jam. After a meeting on the mound, the Bucs chose to intentionally walk Hunter Pence, who was 2-for-2 with a double and a homer, to get to Jim Thome. McDonald got Thome to caught looking on a called third strike to strand Pierre at third.
“I was throwing fastballs, fastballs, fastballs. I thought this time is a good time to throw a breaking ball. And I dropped it in there,” McDonald said. “It was a good pitch.”
“We’re passing on Pence,” Hurdle said on the decision to intentionally walk Pence. “He banged two more balls. I’d seen enough. J-Mac was a little disappointed. [Pitching coach] Ray [Searage] said he was disappointed. I said, ‘I got no problem with him being disappointed, but tell him to get him out once in a while and we wont’ have to put him on.’ I felt comfortable with the matchup with Thome…I just felt that was a better way to attack him in that inning.”
Jared Hughes replaced McDonald and took the mound in the 7th inning, immediately allowing a leadoff walk to Ty Wigginton. Freddy Galvis reached first base on a sac bunt. Neil Walker, who covered the first base bag, missed the ball Hughes threw, causing interference and advancing runners to second and third base. Hughes was able to retire his next two batters, but Pierre knocked a two-run single into right field to give the Phillies a 4-1 lead.
Pedro Alvarez crushed a 2-1 changeup for a home run in the fifth inning. The ball left PNC Park and bounced on the walkway in front of the river. It marked Alvarez’s first hit and long ball of the season (was 0-for-4 with two strikeouts prior to that at-bat).
“It felt good to put a pretty good swing [on it], hit a ball solid. The fact that it was a home run is a plus. Just trying to put good swings and make good contact,” Alvarez said. “I’m not focusing on hitting home runs or anything like that. I’m just focusing on putting some good swings. It obviously feels good.”
“I don’t think there’s any doubt, probably took a breath of fresh air, relax a little it,” Hurdle said on the homer taking some pressure off Alvarez, who struggled this spring. “I think everybody felt better for him. Everybody is pulling for him. He knows it. He cant get caught up in all that. He’s got a wealth of support on this ball club and this clubhouse.”
With one out in the 7th, Alvarez struck out, but catcher Brian Schneider dropped the third strike. Alvarez ran out the ball to first base, Schneider’s throw to first was dropped for the error allowing Alvarez to reach base safely.
“I was just trying to make him throw the ball. Anything can happen. You saw what happened. I’m just glad I ran it [out],” Alvarez said.
“There’s many times people don’t run those balls out,” Hurdle said. “It just goes to show, speaks to Pedro’s awareness. I’ve never seen the man take his bat out to his defense, or not run a ball out. We’ve got a bunch of guys that separate that ball very well. They understand the importance of finishing plays. That’s what he did right there. He finished the play. They needed to make a throw, they didn’t. It all started kind of innocently. But that’s how things can work when you capitalize.”
The Pirates were able to take advantage of the miscue. With two outs, McGehee, who was entered the game in the top of the 7th inning in a double switch, took a pitch from reliver Michael Stutes off the Clemente wall in right field for a RBI double. Presley followed by hitting a line drive single into right to score McGehee to bring the game within one run.
McCutchen leadoff the 8th inning with a line drive single into left field off reliever Kyle Kendrick. With one out, pinch-hitter Yamaico Navarro drew a walk. Hurdle decided to pinch hit for the left-handed bat in Pedro Alvarez for the righty in rookie Matt Hague. Although a tough decision, Hurdle said, it worked out in his favor.
“It’s not something that’s a lay-up in my mind. Say, ‘Okay. This is it. We’re going this way.’ because you want to give opportunities to a young man to buy more real estate, to improve, build on some traction that he might have,” Hurdle said. “I think you want to be an optimist, but you’ve got to be a realist. You got to make sure you’ve paid attention to what transpired before hand. I felt our best bet for the team at that time was to make that move. I don’t envision that Pedro is a guy that’s going to be pinch-hit for a lot in his career. But I think initially to get his feet on the ground, get him moving forward in a good way. We’ll pick our spots. ”
Hague stepped to the plate with two outs to pinch-hit for Alvarez. After going 0-for-3 in his Major League debut on Saturday, Hague knocked a RBI single into left field to pick up his first hit and run batted in to tie the game at 4.
“Going up there, hearing the loud fans, I was a little nervous,” Hague said. “It was fun. I was trying to put a good at-bat together there. Luckily I got a pitch, hit it alright. It found a hole. I’ll take it.”
“I just think he’s in a position now where he can give us good at-bats,” Hurdle said on Hague. “He’s not afraid to hit with two strikes. He’s not afraid to take a pitch early in the count if it’s not what he’s looking for. He’s got the ability to take a really bad swing, then forget about it the next swing. At least from what I’ve seen in the short look that I’ve had. That’s the reason we held him. For opportunity to score runs. He was able to get a big hit for us.”
Hague, who made his Major League debut on Saturday against the Phillies, said he kept a slower heartbeat at the plate in his at-bat today.
“I really just try and make them come to me, instead of going to get a pitch, trying to do too much on it,” Hague said. “Yesterday when I started, I was really nervous, and I tried slowing it down. Just trying to stay within myself. Luckily I came through.”
With the 5-4 win, the Pirates took 2-of-3 from the Phillies and improve to 2-1 on the season.
They’re a good team,” Alvarez said. “For us, that’s obviously huge. We just played three good ballgames, and they did as well. It’s just a matter of playing out every pitch, playing until the end. For us, it’s huge when you can take two of three from a good team like the Phillies. Just got to keep going.”
The Pirates pitching held the Phillies to just six runs over the three game set despite facing two Cy Young Award winners in Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee.
“Our pitching was very, very good,” Hurdle said. “They all understand their roles. They understand the importance that the pitching is going to take you. It takes you good place, it takes you bad places. This is the way the game is constructed. It’s never going to change from that angle. Good pitching beats good hitting. Our guys have something to prove. They got to a good place last year. They weren’t able to finish as strong as they’d like collectively as a group. I think they’re aware of that. At the same time, they’re taking it one day at a time.”
- Relief — Jared Hughes: IP, H, 2R, 0ER, 2BB, K; Evan Meek: IP, K; Joel Hanrahan: IP, 2K
- Infielder Casey McGhee’s first hit as a bucco was a RBI double off the Roberto Clemente wall in the 7th inning.
- Jose Tabata (first inning), Alex Presley (seventh) and Andrew McCutchen (eighth) picked up stolen bases vs. Phillies.
- Matt Hague collected his first Major League hit and RBI in the bottom of the 8th inning to tie the game.