The Pittsburgh Pirates first inning woes continued on Wednesday after James McDonald allowed San Diego to plate three runs in the opening frame. The first inning struggle has been somewhat of a trend for the Bucs as of late.
In each of the opening frames against the Padres over the three game set, the starters have allowed at least two runs to touch home plate. Over their last five games, the club has allowed the opposing team to score in the first inning in four of those contests.
It’s hard to battle back and win when the club has trailed from the start lately. The Pirates have been outscored 90-59 in the first inning this season and post a 31-45 record when the opposing team scores first.
McDonald struggled in the first inning, but was able to battle through his next four innings and give the team a chance to win, despite not having his best stuff. McDonald continues to work himself back to the first half right-hander that was the staff ace for the club.
Command was the biggest issue for McDonald, who walked a combined five in his five innings of work.
McDonald started the game off by walking the first three batters that he faced. The right-hander had already thrown 23 pitches before retiring an out, sending pitching coach Ray Serage to the mound for a visit. Carlos Quentin took a fastball off the wall in left center field for a two-run double two plate the first two runs of the frame. Mark Kotsay followed by hitting a sac fly to center to drive in the third run of the inning.
It turned out that big inning was the only inning that San Diego would need as the Pirates were only able to score two off Andrew Werner, who made his Major League debut. After McDonald’s rough first inning, he was able to battle his way through his next four frames, tossing up zeros in all but one of them.
After pitching a scoreless second, McDonald worked himself into a jam again in the third. Everth Cabrera reached first on a bunt single, and advanced to second base after swiping his second bag in as many at-bats. McDonald issued his fourth free pass of the game with one out. The right-hander was able to leave both runners stranded, however, after getting a fly out to left and a pop out in foul territory.
The fourth inning was another battle for McDonald. After issuing his fifth walk to start the frame, which was the total of his last three starts prior combined, Cameron Maybin connected for a single to left field. With one out, both runners pulled off a double steal. But McDonald beared down, and picked up his second strikeout and a groundout to leave them stranded.
For his fifth straight inning, McDonald allowed a base runner. Will Venable ripped a double off the wall in center to start the fifth. With one out, Quentin drove in his third RBI of the game with a base knock to right field. McDonald was able to retire his next two batters to end his outing.
Overall, McDonald allowed four runs on five hits over five frames. He walked five and struck out two while throwing 97 pitches, 54 for strikes.
Marte to be Re-evaluated Friday
Starling Marte will be re-evaluated on Friday to see if he’s ready for any type of physical activity. The Pirates fly back to Pittsburgh tonight, but have a scheduled off day on Thursday.
The rookie outfielder, who is on the disabled list with a right oblique strain, has been resting the injury. He has not had any kind of exercise since being placed on the DL on Sunday.
Offense Unable to Snap Sweep
The Pirates offense struggled on Wednesday combining for just two runs on four hits as they got swept in San Diego. The club is just 3-4 over their last seven games, and could face dropping out of the second spot of the Wild Card spot tonight depending on how St. Louis and Los Angeles fare.
One of the two runs that the Pirates were able to plate off the Padres came from Gaby Sanchez. The first baseman took a first pitch changeup for his first long ball since being acquired from Miami.