PITTSBURGH, Pa. — The Pirates bats have struggled for most of the season. Entering game action, the Bucs were hitting at just a .202 clip, which is worst in the Majors. But the bats came out swinging off the Colorado Rockies bullpen on Tuesday night at PNC Park.
For the first just the third time during the 2012 season, the Bucs combined for double-digit hits (11). The club pounded out 13 hits on April 17 against Arizona, and 11 on the 8th against Philadelphia.
“It’s been a grind for us,” Clint Barmes said. “We’ve played a lot of close games this year. I think it’s safe to say that everyone in here, we all believe in each other. We’re never going to give up no matter what the score is, or the situation of the game. We’ve been able to scrap and fight and do what we can to pull away with a few wins. It was nice to battle back and get this one tonight.”
With a 3-2 lead in the eighth inning, lefty Tony Watson was called upon with two outs and a runner on second base. Watson entered game action having retired the first batter he had faced in all seven of his appearances. The streak ended after the lefty left a 1-1 slider up over the plate and Carlos Gonzalez connected for a two-run homer into the visitors bullpen to retake the lead.
The outfielder Gonzalez also went deep in the first inning combining for all the four runs off the Pirates on the night. It marked his fifth career multi-homer game.
After seeing their lead go in the top of the 8th inning, the Bucs rallied back in the bottom of the frame.
Clint Barmes tied the game at 4 with a leadoff long ball to left field in the bottom of the eighth inning. It marked his second homer of the season as he went on to go 3-for-3 with two doubles and a walk off against his former team, the Rockies.
“Fastball in,” Barmes said of the pitch he launched. “I’ve been getting beat in a little bit from the beginning of the season until now. It’s nice to finally get a pitch like that and do something with it.”
Barmes snapped an 0-for-9 skid when he hit a double off the veteran starter Jamie Moyer in the second frame. Having struggled at the plate for most of the season, Barmes saw success after a few tweaks at the plate.
“I’ve been definitely waiting to try feel a little bit more comfortable at the plate on the offensive side. It was one of those games where I think slowing everything down,” Barmes said. ”Going into the game, I’ve been working to try and get a little bit more comfortable with my hands. Some minor tweaks. It was very nice to get a good feel at the plate and barrel a couple balls and help out on the offensive side for once.”
Garrett Jones drew a pinch-hit walk off reliever Matt Belisie. After almost being picked off at second, Pirates Manager Clint Hurdle took no chances and replaced Jones with pinch-runner Nate McLouth.
“As soon as he got to second base and into scoring position, we alerted him that they would try and put a pick off play on,” Hurdle said. “That didn’t surprise us. And he was aware that it would be coming. He found a way to slip just a little bit to make it very interesting.”
McLouth scored to go-ahead and eventual winning run on a RBI single to right field by Casey McGehee in the Pirates 5-4 win. The club was able to put together multiple big hits in the victory over the Rockies.
“Everybody breathes a little bit easier,” Hurdle said. “Smiles start to crack a little bit. You find a way to have a little fun. That was one of the guys where you go, ‘Ah. Oh. Ah. Oh.’ I was proud of the way we battled back. Two in the first, [Kevin] Correia hangs on, pitches us through the sixth. We have opportunities, miss a few. We left more men on base in one game more than three, four, five games put together. That’s a good sign. Then to get the hits it’s good. It’s good stuff. [Andrew] McCutchen the big double. Casey [McGehee] staying inside a ball to the big part of the field. It was a good night for our offense.”
Right-hander Kevin Correia made his third start of the season tonight – his first at PNC Park. Pittsburgh was a house of horrors for the 31-year-old during his first season as a Pirate. Correia went 2-8 with a 7.71 ERA in 13 games at PNC Park in 2011. That was compared to a 10-3 record with a 2.64 ERA in 14 starts on the road last season.
Correia continued his solid start to the season by pitching a quality start at PNC. It marked his first quality start in Pittsburgh since June 22 against Baltimore where he allowed three earned runs over 6.0 frames.
“He pitched a good ballgame,” Hurdle said. “I don’t have any idea what he’s doing to try and mix things up a little bit, but he needs to just leave it alone. I think it was a nice little sample size for him compared to what he was challenged with last year. Good start.”
With one out in the first, Dexter Fowler singled into center field. Carlos Gonzalez took a 3-2 fastball into the bleachers in left field for a two-run shot. All-Star Troy Tulowitzki picked up the third straight hit off Correia in the inning, a single into right field. The righty was able to leave him stranded by retiring his next two batters on ground outs.
“Really, I made one bad pitch to a really good hitter,” Correia said. “He hit a home run and that was it. That could have happened on any day. Kind of woke me up a little bit. It was early, and I knew I had to keep pitching for a while and I managed to get some quicker outs after that.”
From there, Correia settled in. Over his next five innings, the righty gave up just one hit over 5.0 scoreless frames with four whiffs, which included retiring 10 straight Rockies in a row.
“That’s a pretty good offensive team,” Correia said. “To go out there and get a quality start out of it, I’m always going to feel good about that.”
Overall, Correia allowed two runs on four hits over 6.0 innings. He didn’t walk a batter and struck out four while throwing 93 pitches, 57 for strikes. Correia, who was scratched from his start on Saturday due to tightness in his left side, had extra rest for his start tonight. And after the first frame, said he felt fine.
“It didn’t bother me too much,” Correia said. “I didn’t have any times where I felt like it was getting overtaxed. I think the beginning of the game I was a little cautious with it. But after that, I let a few go and it felt fine.”
Lefty Jamie Moyer limited the Bucs to just one run over his 6.0 innings. After Moyer was taken out of the game, the club was able to rally off the Rockies ‘pen.
Alex Presley led off the first with a double into the gap into right center field. It extended Presley’s hitting streak to eight games. The Pirates played small ball to bring the game within one run. Jose Tabata laid down a sac bunt to advance Presley to third, and Andrew McCutchen hit a RBI ground out to short.
“He threw the ball extremely well today,” Barmes said on Moyer. “He kept the ball down. He knows how to pitch, obviously. He’s had a great career. To get him out and to work, have some quality at-bats, get some runs late was definitely nice.”
Pirates closer Joel Hanrahan pitched a perfect inning of relief in the ninth and picked up his third save of the season by striking out Ramon Hernandez swinging to end the game.
“Its something that we haven’t done most of the year,” Correia said of the team’s resiliency to battle back. “We came from behind and we clutched up at the end of the game. Hanrahan came in and nailed it down like he did last year. It was kind of just more of a glimpse of what we doing the first half of last season. And that’s a good sign. Hopefully we can get on a roll like that again.”
- Relief — Juan Cruz: IP, K, HB; Jason Grilli: 0.2 IP, H, R, 2K; Tony Watson: 0.1 IP, H, R, HR; Joel Hanrahan: IP, K
- Jose Tabata swiped his third stolen base of the season with two outs in the 3rd inning. Tabata is tied with Alex Presley (3) and trails only Andrew McCutchen, who leads the team in stolen bases (4).
- Casey McGehee plated the winning run in the bottom of the 8th inning, but he also drew three walks in the game.
- In their first 16 games, the Pirates have yet to score or allow more than five runs in any contest. The Pirates tied the streak –the 1965 Pirates did the same in their first 16 contests. Only one other team in history was the 1943 Tigers, who played their first 17 games without scoring or allowing more than five runs.