Pirates Attack Edwin Jackson Early In 4-2 Win, Sweep Cubs

Travis Snider Zoltan

Travis Snider flashes the Zoltan after his RBI triple in the second inning. (Photo Credit: David Hague)

Only Mother Nature could stop the Pirates’ offensive barrage on Edwin Jackson.

In the first two innings, the Bucs smacked six hits and brought in four runs on the opposing starting pitcher, en route to a 4-2 Thursday afternoon victory and sweep over the Chicago Cubs. While Jackson struck out six batters, he also left plenty of pitches down the middle for the Pirates to smack.

Then it began to rain.

Jackson and mound opponent Jeanmar Gomez were removed after the 107-minute intermission. What followed was the Pirates (29-18) once again cruising to victory with few hits while the bullpen held up its innings for the fourth-straight win.

“Jeanmar gaves us what we needed to get from him,” manager Clint Hurdle said.

How The Pirates Got Their Runs

Andrew McCutchen stole two more bases Thursday, and scored one of the four runs. (Photo Credit: David Hague)

Andrew McCutchen stole two more bases Thursday, and scored one of the four runs. (Photo Credit: David Hague)

Starling Marte led off the 1st with an infield single toward the shortstop, then stole second base to allow Andrew McCutchen to drive him in with an RBI single. That’s classic top-of-the-lineup run production. Two batters later, Michael McKenry hit another RBI single to score McCutchen and give the Pirates a 2-0 lead despite Edwin Jackson striking out the side.

“I’ve been seeing the ball well this whole month,” McCutchen said. “After I swing the bat, there’s nothing else I can do.”

Marte pulled the same move again with two outs in the 2nd inning, hitting a leadoff single off the glove of Jackson. This time, though, Travis Snider smacked an RBI triple into the North Shore Notch to score Marte, then McCutchen hit another single to score Snider. After two low-scoring games, the Pirates had pounced on Edwin Jackson for four runs.

Such outings have become common for Jackson, Chicago’s $52-million signing, who has collected a hefty 52 strikeouts in 53 innings this season but is now the proud owner of a 6.11 ERA. The Cubs’ bullpen was (unexpectedly) solid, allowing only three hits over five innings. Special props go to Carlos Villanueva, who pitched two scoreless frames, including striking out McCutchen, Garrett Jones and Neil Walker 1-2-3.

Gomez Fine Before The Rain

Jeanmar Gomez gave up just one run in 3.2 innings. (Photo Credit: David Hague)

Jeanmar Gomez gave up just one run in 3.2 innings. (Photo Credit: David Hague)

Jeanmar Gomez faced the minimum through three innings, but the Cubs got on the scoreboard in the 4th. David DeJesus hit a leadoff double off the right field wall, moved to third base via Starlin Castro’s single, then scored on Anthony Rizzo’s RBI ground ball. Garrett Jones’ fielding error meant the Cubs had two runner on base when the game was delayed, but Vin Mazzaro got the final out of that 4th inning.

Gomez gave up only three hits in his 3.2-inning start, not enough innings for the win, but he was effective once again before the rain delay.

“One hour, 47 minutes is a long time to get back to pitch,” Gomez said. “I was disappointed, but it’s part of the game. It rained hard.”

Mazzaro was strong in relief as well, earning the win by pitching 2.1 scoreless innings and scattering two singles. Castro hit one of those singles to the right-field corner, but Travis Snider delivered a laser throw to get him out at second base.

“I’ve always been impressed with Mazzaro,” said catcher Michael McKenry. “His attitude really fits in the bullpen. He’s got an electric sinker. It’s really heavy.”

In the 7th, the Cubs got the tying man aboard on Ryan Sweeney’s RBI single, but Justin Wilson drew a David DeJesus fly-out on a nice sliding grab by McCutchen into the Bermuda Triangle of shallow center.¬†McCutchen went 3-for-4 with three singles to go with his stellar catch, bringing his season batting average to .291 after having a .238 season average on May 1.

“Everybody knew it was coming,” said McKenry about McCutchen’s offensive surge. “If you didn’t know it was coming, I don’t know where your head’s at.”

Closing Out A Win – And A Homestand

Pedro Alvarez Catching

Pedro Alvarez started the game with a smooth catch over the tarp. (Photo Credit: David Hague)

Justin Wilson pitched 1-2-3 inning in the 8th, and Jason Grilli picked up his 19th save with a 1-2-3 closeout. The Pirates are now tied with the Cincinnati Reds for second place and trail the St. Louis Cardinals by 1.5 games for first in the NL Central.

The Pirates finished up their homestand 8-2 against three teams under .500 this year, though the sweep of the Cubs came against some good starting pitching in Jackson, Jeff Samardzija and Matt Garza.

“We played some pretty good games, some battles,” third baseman Pedro Alvarez said. “It’s good momentum going into these series coming up.”

All the wins except one were by two runs or fewer, but the Pirates leave for Milwaukee having taken advantage of subpar opposition.

“You’ll take 8-2 every time you go, no matter who you are playing,” Hurdle said. “Certain people you’re supposed to beat, the game doesn’t know that.”

The game better take notice of these Pittsburgh Pirates, who allowed only three runs per game this homestand, and are now out to vanquish some demons at Miller Park.

The only thing certain at the retractable-roof stadium in Milwaukee where the Pirates have struggled so much? No rain delays.

James Santelli

Author: James Santelli

James covers the Pirates beat for Pirates Prospects. He is a Broadcast Journalism student at USC and has written for such outlets as NBCOlympics.com, Pittsburgh Magazine and the official websites of the Los Angeles Clippers and Pittsburgh Penguins. James previously covered the Pirates for Pittsburgh Sports Report. He also broadcasts play-by-play for the USC Trojans baseball team and was awarded the 2013 Chick Hearn Memorial Scholarship and Allan Malamud Scholarship. James dispenses puns at his Twitter account (@JamesSantelli) where he promises to write in first-person. Google

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  • JRIcentral

    Why did Mazzaro get the W??? Though it should be Gomez….

    • blackmax

      Starter must go 5 to earn win.

      • http://www.facebook.com/stephen.brooks.581 Stephen Brooks

        A rule, by the way, that feels antiquated. If Gomes pitches 4 2/3 scoreless and is leading 8-0 when it starts raining, and is replaced after the delay by a train of relievers who cough up 7 runs, one of THEM gets the win.

        But that’s probably an argument for another site…

    • OldTimeBucsFan

      The starting pitcher must complete at least 5 innings to qualify as the winning pitcher. If he doesn’t, and his team is leading after 5, and thereafter continues to lead, the pitcher who finished the 5th is almost always credited as the winning pitcher. (I think there is an option to designate the most worthy relief pitcher after the 5th as the pitcher of record, but I don’t recall the last time that was used.)

  • blackmax

    James, anyone, help! In the first 2 at bats, Pedro looked like he’d never seen a curve ball before or more precisely like he couldn’t recognize one even if he should expect it on the next pitch. Any idea what scouts say about his current problems? Or about Neil Walker’s often fruitless efforts this season? Has he lost bat speed? Has he lost the power of pitch recognition?

    • James Santelli

      I don’t know, but you have certainly given me good ideas about questions to ask scout-y types.

  • westonian420

    Anyone else notice Grilli’s drop in velocity over his last two saves? Cause for concern?

    • blackmax

      Yes. TV gun said that it got up to 94 on the last pitch after sitting at 92-93 all inning.

  • smurph

    For those who were railing the Pirates to sign Edwin Jackson, I hate to say I told you so, but I did. He has a career sub-.500 record and an ERA close to 5. Fifty-two million for that? Nah.