Erik Bedard had two solid outings out of the chute of the All-Star break. The left-hander struggled in the month of June and beginning of July to end the first half of the season. Bedard used the break to make some adjustments. Pittsburgh also shuffled the rotation in the second half bumping Bedard in the rotation to give him extra days off in order to get in more work during bullpen sessions.
“When you can develop trust and show more patience than most, it has a chance to work out,” Manager Clint Hurdle said. “One thing that I’ve tried to do, and shared with my coaches is have more patience than anybody else because a lot of times guys don’t do well a couple times, we’re very reactive. We want to kick them to the curb. We want somebody else in. We’ll see how it plays out. ”
The work paid off in his first two starts, where he allowed just two earned over 13.2 innings with 15 strikeouts. His last trip to the mound, however, Bedard struggled allowing a season-high eight earned runs on seven hits over just 4.1 innings.
“The first two starts were very clean,” Hurdle said prior to the game on Bedard needing to bounce back. “There were a number of innings very clean in Chicago, then we ran in some turbulence…The confidence, the health is there. It’s just the commitment and execution of pitches. That trust factor that they know what they want to do, and trust that their going to do it.”
Working with pitching coach Ray Searage to get back on track, Hurdle said has helped not only Bedard, but the staff in general this season.
“Not that you’re going to change the skill set that they have, but that you can help them get it out there more consistently.” Hurdle said. “Ray is very good at what Ray does. He has tremendous trust in his staff, with each and every guy. He’s not just their pitching coach. He really pulls for them. They know that. They listen when they need to listen, and sometimes we’ve been able to coach them up. But I do think that the trust part and the confidence to get the job done has helped.”
Bedard was able to bounce back in a big way on Monday for the Pirates, looking like the very efficient lefty during the first two months of the season. The left-hander was dominant on the mound against Arizona tossing his first scoreless outing since he went six shutout innings on May 27 in Chicago.
After tossing a perfect first, Bedard allowed a leadoff double to the gap in right center field to start the second frame. The lefty induced a pair of groundouts and whiffed Miguel Montero looking to leave the runner stranded at third base. Bedard went on to retire 17 straight batters from the second inning until two outs in the seventh.
At just 74 pitches, Bedard took the mound looking to pass his season-high seven innings. He retired his first two batters, then Paul Goldschmidt ripped a single down the left field line. The first baseman attempted to stretch a single into a double, but not on rookie Starling Marte’s watch. The outfielder showed off his cannon arm by launching a perfect strike at Neil Walker at second base to tag out Goldschmidt in plenty of time to end the inning.
“Very quickly,” Hurdle said of Marte’s throw. “That was a strong throw. We played basically old fashioned baseball game today. Pitching and defense. We had one run and we added on a little bit late.”
“I was throwing strikes with all my pitches so that always helps when you’re going out there and competing,” Bedard said. “When there’s not a lot of base runners, your tempo is always good. You just try to keep doing that and keep battling.”
Overall, Bedard tossed seven scoreless — which tied his season-high — while holding the D-backs to just two hits. He didn’t walk a batter and racked up five punchouts while throwing 84 pitches, 57 for strikes.
“He pitched exceptional tonight,” Hurdle said. “Everything that we had talked about from the second half on. He pitched the four spots. He got the ball inside. He mixed in his breaking ball for strikes, he got it for chase. He worked a very good tempo and rhythm tonight. First pitch strikes were in a good place…You can’t pitch much better than that.”
The Pirates have not only the best staff ERA at home in the Major Leagues — they entered game action with a team 2.37 ERA — but they also have posted the best home record of 34-16.
McCutchen, Pirates Take Advantage of Arizona’s Mistakes
Andrew McCutchen proved why his set of wheels can cause the defense to make mistakes on Monday in the fourth inning. After the All-Star singled into center, he was able to turn on his speed to advance to third base on double errors by Arizona.
The ball dropped into shallow center field for the single. Chris Young bobbled the ball, allowing McCutchen to aggressively run to second. The throw from center was off the glove of their shortstop, allowing McCutchen to sprint down to third base and slide in safely, after which he flashed to the dugout the “Z” for the second error from the D-backs.
“Just instincts for the most part,” McCutchen said. “I [saw] him drop it and was looking for it. He still couldn’t find it, so by that time, I’m just going to go. If the infielder would have got it, I would have been out. It was just a risk I took. I was able to get from one bag to another.”
“It was a good part of the game. I started it off. We were able to play some small ball and get that run in. That was something that we needed.”
The error proved to be costly as Gaby Sanchez followed with an RBI groundout to plate the first run of the game.
The Pirates were also able to take advantage of Arizona’s miscues again in the eight inning. After Andrew McCutchen and Gaby Sanchez picked up back-to-back singles, Neil Walker hit an infield single off Willie Bloomquist at short, who couldn’t come up with the catch. Travis Snider followed by ripping an RBI knock lined off the glove of Aaron Hill at second.
Cruz Struggles in Rehab Outing
Juan Cruz made his first rehab appearance tonight for Double-A Altoona and struggled. The right-hander didn’t make it through the one inning that he was slated to pitch on Monday.
Cruz allowed two runs on four hits over 0.1 innings with a strikeout. He threw 25 pitches before getting pulled from the game.
Hurdle said prior to the game that his bullpen sessions have been going well, and that he was on the right track to start his rehab assignment. Cruz was placed on the 15-day disabled list on July 21 (retroactive to the 18th) with right shoulder inflammation.
“Everything has been fine so far,” Hurdle said earlier today. “That would be the reason why we’re sending him to Altoona to pitch an inning tonight.”
Harrison in the Lineup; Alvarez out
For the second straight game, Manger Clint Hurdle ran out the same player at third base — and no, it wasn’t Pedro Alvarez. Josh Harrison made the start at the hot corner for the second day in a row raising eyebrows as to why Alvarez was sitting on the bench again.
Hurdle said prior to the game that he was riding the hot bat of Harrison. The super utility man has made three straight starts and went 4-for-8 with a solo home run during that span. In his last 27 at-bats, Harrison has belted out a .407 average, leading Hurdle to keep putting his name on the lineup card. Also mentioned was several other factors as to why Alvarez, who is 3 for his last 12, was benched.
“We’ve got that stretch of 17 more games in a row so I’m going to get everybody involved,” Hurdle said. “[Jordy] Mercer’s going to find time. We’ll try to match up the best we feel that we can that night with our pitcher on the mound and the team we’re playing and go from there.”
Tabata on a Hitting Tear at Triple-A
When Jose Tabata was first demoted to Triple-A Indianapolis on July 3, the outfielder struggled. General Manager Neal Huntington even went as far as saying that there was some frustrations on Tabata’s end, and that they were trying to get him back on track. The message must have been heard loud and clear because Tabata has been on an offensive tear.
Entering game action on Monday, Tabata has hit for a .432/.500/.459 line over his last 10 games. During that span he’s had just one extra-base hit (a double). He’s also drawn four walks to five whiffs with a stolen base.
“I’ve heard that the last week has been some of the best baseball that he’s been playing,” Hurdle said.
The outfield looks to be log jammed at the moment with the new addition of Travis Snider, so Tabata will need to continue to stay on the right path before the club decides to give him a promotion back to the big league club.