The Pittsburgh Pirates snapped their three game streak on Wednesday after pounding out season highs in hits (14) and runs (11) en route to beating the Philadelphia Phillies, 11-7 at Citizens Bank Park. It was their first win in Philly this season and just their sixth over their last 26 games played there. The 11 runs scored by Pittsburgh was the most since they scored 11 on September 22, 2010.
Pedro Alvarez was the lone bat of the starting nine that didn’t combine for at least one hit off the Phillies arms. Leading the way were Andrew McCutchen, Casey McGehee and Michael McKenry, who all connected for long balls on the night.
McCutchen’s came with one out in the eighth inning. The center fielder extended the lead to four runs with a swing of the bat. Having entered game action with a .450 average over his last 10 games, the Phillies decided to pitch to him and he made them pay. The long ball was McCutchen’s team-leading 14th of the season.
McGehee, too, had a big swing of the bat. He connected for a leadoff homer to center field in the fourth inning. It marked his fourth of the season — all four having come in his last 15 games. During the month of June, McGehee is hitting for a .294/.355/.485 line.
“He’s found a comfort zone in the box,” Manager Clint Hurdle said of McGehee. “I think he’d be the first to tell you, one of the challenges that a player has coming into a new environment is they want to make a good first impression. And if they don’t make a good first impression, they find ways to force that good first impression into a second good impression and then all you’re doing is trying too hard a lot. I think Casey got into that situation. He’s worked his way out of it.”
“The month of June has been very good to him. He’s found a contact spot to be able to repeat his swing, to be able to drive the ball to the opposite field and the slow stuff he’s been able to pull. From a competitive standpoint, it helps. That’s why we went out and acquired him. We felt that this bat would play in the middle of our lineup and he could help be a run producer. The at-bats have been very, very good this June and we’re looking for more of that as we continue on in the season.”
McKenry continued to make the most of his opportunity in the lineup on Wednesday. In his second straight start with Rod Barajas day-to-day with a bone bruise, McKenry connected for a three-run homer to left field on 3-2 pitch in the second inning. The catcher has homered in back-to-back games and is seven for his last nine at-bats.
Lincoln Puts a Foot Down in Relief
In Brad Lincoln’s first appearance out of the bullpen since making four straight starts, the right-hander was impressive. The Pirates saw their six run lead quickly start to slip after relievers Tony Watson and Jared Hughes combined to allow three runs on four hits over just 0.1 inning.
Hurdle called upon Lincoln from the ‘pen and he put a foot down. In a one run game and runners on first and second and no outs, Lincoln shut down the Phillies offense.
Facing the heart of their lineup, Lincoln got Hunter Pence to chase on a 3-2 slider in the dirt to get the first strikeout. His next batter flew out to left before Jim Thome came in to pinch hit. But Lincoln went right after him. Thome whiffed swinging on just three pitches, the third a 95 mph fastball ended the rally and inning.
Lincoln has just a 0.43 ERA in relief this season. He’s whiffed 25 batters over 21.0 innings.
McDonald Snaps Impressive Streak
James McDonald took the mound at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia with an impressive streak this season. After coming off his first Major League complete game against Minnesota, McDonald became the only Pirate starter since 1900 to allow three or fewer runs in each of their first 14 starts of the season.
The right-hander looked to extended the streak, but for the first time all season struggled on the mound.
With Rod Barajas day-to-day with a bone bruise, Michael McKenry caught McDonald for the first time since April 25. The right-hander had only allowed four long balls over 90.1 innings, but quickly gave up two in his first inning of work.
McDonald allowed a leadoff walk to start, but erased the lead runner after getting a fielder’s choice to Juan Pierre, who was caught attempting to swipe second base for the second quick out. Chase Utley, however, in his first at-bat of the season crushed a 2-2 pitch into right center field for a solo home run. Carlos Ruiz, who has been a Pirates killer this series going 6-for-8, followed with a long ball. It marked the first time all season that McDonald had allowed more than one home run in a start.
The right-hander bounced back and allowed just one hit over his next four scoreless innings — a leadoff single to left field by Jimmy Rollins in the third. He also struck out four during that span. In his next inning, McDonald allowed two runs to end his streak.
Utley picked up his second hit off McDonald with one out in the sixth inning, but was erased at second after Carlos Ruiz hit into a fielder’s choice. Hunter Pence followed by hitting a RBI double into the gap into left-center field to plate the third earned run off the right-hander. McDonald was unable to retire his next batter, Shane Victorino, who drove in the fourth run to snap his streak. Hurdle went to reliever Jared Hughes from the bullpen who walked a batter, but induced a ground out to end the inning.
Overall, McDonald allowed four runs on six hits over 5.2 innings. It was his shortest outing since going four on June 9 against Kansas City. McDonald walked two and struck out four while throwing 100 pitches, 62 strikes. Despite allowing four runs, McDonald’s season ERA is still an impressive 2.44.