SAN FRANCISCO — If America’s coldest summer is in San Francisco, the chill did not reach the Pirates’ bats. The Bucs offense heated up to scorch the Giants for a 10-5 victory on a cool Thursday night by the Bay.
The warming glow burned bright early. Matt Cain gave up three straight hits to start the game down 1-0, then he served Garrett Jones and Jordy Mercer matching 92-mph fastballs in the 2nd that the hitters cranked out for home runs.
Jones demolished his Cain shot into San Francisco Bay (he called it “being on time for his best fastball”) to become the first hitter to make such a splash on the fly into both the Bay and the Allegheny River. Mercer smashed his home run off Cain six rows deep into the left-field stands for a 3-0 lead.
“I think he was trying to go away and it just came back over the plate,” Mercer said. “Any time you’re going against a guy like that who has quality stuff, you need to capitalize on his mistakes. I felt like we did that.”
Giants fans know how much Cain has provided to their team over his nine years in San Francisco. Three rough innings are merely a speck compared to the 171 regular-season quality starts and starting all three series-clinching games of last year’s World Series run.
It did not much matter that Cain allowed three runs on seven hits Thursday night, adding another blemish to his already-pockmarked season. One minute after Gaby Sanchez hit a line drive off the pitcher’s right forearm, Cain walked off the AT&T Park mound to a standing ovation from the supporters in orange and black. In the ballpark where Cain pitched playoff gems and a perfect game, the love seems unconditional.
Scorching 5th Inning
But Pittsburgh’s offense gave those Giants fan a fever in the seven-run 5th inning. Immediately after San Francisco tied the game on Marco Scutaro’s two-run single, the lead was paid back with interest. The Pirates sent 10 straight batters to the plate before having an at-bat in which they a hitter did not get on-base or produce a run.
Reliever Guillermo Moscoso began that 5th by hitting Jose Tabata and walking the next two batters. He was then removed for Jose Mijares, and the Giants’ situation did not improve. Mijares threw mostly fastballs that sat in the high-80′s, and the Bucs smacked them all over the field. Pedro Alvarez crushed a book-rule double, his second long near-homer of the game at spacious AT&T, to drive in two runs.
“I try to do that everywhere,” Alvarez said. “It just so happens that as of late it has been in these big ballparks. I’ve had to run more than usual. It’s a coincidence (laughs).”
Russell Martin and Gaby Sanchez added two more by hitting a sacrifice fly each. Mijares gave up two more singles to Mercer and pitcher Jeff Locke, then Tabata lined a bases-clearing double to the left-center-field wall.
“Nobody wants to get that out. You just want to keep it going,” Mercer said. “I felt like we got into a rhythm that we got [Mijares] on his heels a little bit.”
Locke Struggles Again
The heat wave put the Pirates up 10-3 and masked a poor short start from Locke. The left-hander averted disaster in the 2nd by drawing a ground-ball double play to erase a leadoff walk and striking out Cain to strand his two allowed singles.
Locke was not so lucky following his leadoff walks the next two frames. Brandon Belt came around to score on a sacrifice fly in the 3rd to put San Francisco on the scoreboard. Pablo Sandoval started the 4th by drawing Locke’s walk then moved to third base on a Brett Pill single and Gregor Blanco groundout. Blanco was bunted over, then Marco Scutaro supplied the damage by knocking a game-tying two-run single.
“I’ve been that way all season. I’ve walked guys. I’ve hung on the corners a lot,” Locke said. “Same as normal. Nothing out of the ordinary … I didn’t really feel like I got squeezed at all or anything like that.”
Locke has a 4.94 ERA since the start of July following his All-Star-caliber first three months of run prevention.
Jeanmar Gomez began to warm up near the end of the 4th inning and could have possibly entered then, but he had to stall in the bullpen for nearly a half-hour while the Pirates poured on the runs. Gomez was worth the wait as he pitched three no-hit innings to keep the big lead he received and earn the win.
Jared Hughes allowed three hits over a span of four batters in the 8th to cut off a piece of Pittsburgh’s margin of victory. Tony Watson then retired the last four batters to complete the victory, keep the Pirates one game ahead of St. Louis in the National League Central and put them 3-1 on the West Coast road trip.
The Bucs, on this night, swung a hot bat.