KISSIMMEE, Fla. — The Pittsburgh Pirates won 9-7 to the Houston Astros at Osceola County Stadium on Sunday. The club combined for 20 hits off the Astros arms.
“We were able to go to the plate and really ground out some at-bats well,” Pirates Manager Clint Hurdle said. “We were taking what was given to us. We hit most of the balls where they were pitched. Not some big swings, not much out of control, aggressive pepper a lot of times…The at-bats were much cleaner today. We kept pounding away. We haven’t had the shutdown innings we want to have throughout this week. Today we were able to on the offensive side stay relentless and keep putting runs on the board.”
Right-hander Brad Lincoln made his first start of the Grapefruit League this spring, and third overall appearance with the Pirates. He allowed three runs on four hits over four innings with a walk and two strikeouts.
“My arm feels strong,” Lincoln said. “Out there, I felt good. There’s no health issues as to why I’m not getting on the mound as much as I should. I felt good out there today. I was able to fill up the zone. Two pitches got away from me, and they did damage with it…Other than that, I felt good out there. I was able to get ahead a lot of hitters, get strike one.”
“He grinded through four innings,” Hurdle said. “He was able to throw close to 70 pitches. He stayed after it. He got dinged early quick, and then he handled the last two innings. He was able to put zeros up…We’re glad to have him healthy. We’re glad to have him out there and competing and the next time out, we’ll need him to be sharper.”
The first run Lincoln allowed came in the 1st inning. With one out, Jed Lowrie took a 3-2 pitch to right field for a solo home run.
The his next inning of work, Brian Bougusevic drew a leadoff walk and scored after former Pirates catcher Chris Snyder connected off Lincoln for a two-run shot in the 2nd inning. It was Snyder’s third home run of the spring, and the second Lincoln gave up in as many innings.
From there, Lincoln cruised, allowing just a walk and no hits in his final two innings of work.
“If you were to watch last season too, it’s like the first and second inning for some odd reason, those innings I tend to get into trouble,” Lincoln said. “Third, fourth, the rest of the game I’m out there, I tend to settle in. That’s another thing I need to work on, from the first pitch of the game to go after guys, and be who I am in that third, fourth and fifth inning.”
“If we knew what it was, we’d stop it,” Hurdle said of Lincoln’s struggles in the first several innings. “He’s aware of it. Sometimes the over awareness of being aware of it might play into it. I don’t know. We’ve tried some different things already…At the end of the day, normally it just comes down to executing better. He’s focused when he’s out there. He loves to compete. The sharpness is what makes things happen, and today early on, he wasn’t as sharp as he needed to be.”
It marked Lincoln’s first outing since last Sunday, a week ago, when he tossed three scoreless frames in a B game against the Minnesota Twins. Lincoln has battled a calf injury throughout spring training, but said he was healthy and worked on fastball command over the time off.
“We had the day off, and they had to get some guys in, get some work in. It just worked that way that I had a week in-between times on the mound,” Lincoln said. “Fastball command. Just getting ahead of hitters. Working down in the zone, as far as just filling up the strike zone with all my pitches not just my fastball. Being able to get consistent out there. Don’t go out there and be one guy one day, another guy the next. That’s a big thing for me.”
How Lincoln fits in with this club this season is yet to be determined. Unless right-hander Charlie Morton has a set back from offseason hip surgery, Lincoln looks to be the sixth starter in the organization and if he doesn’t make the team in the ‘pen, could start the season in Triple-A Indianapolis.
“They haven’t really hinted to me to what their plan is right now,” Lincoln said. “I feel like I’m that six guy if needed, if Charlie isn’t able to start the season. We’re not worried about that right now. We’re worried about getting our work in and what happens, happens. I’m fine with that. If I have to go back to the minor leagues, I’m fine with that. I’m working my hardest to break camp with this team. The decision isn’t up to me.”
Trailing 3-0, the Pirates scored a run in each of their next three innings.
In the third, Eric Fryer reached on an infield single to start the inning. With two outs, Clint Barmes hit a RBI single up the left side to plate a run in the frame.
Back-to-back singles by Rod Barajas and Yamaico Navarro started the fourth inning off right-hander J.A. Happ. Nate McLouth hit an infield single to second base to load the bases. With one out, Eric Fryer hit a sacrifice fly to deep center field to bring the game within one run.
Navarro picked up his third hit on the day with a RBI triple to right center field to score Casey McGehee, who drew a walk off Happ n the 5th inning. The run tied the game at 3.
The Pirates took a 6-3 lead in the 7th by plating three runs off reliever Jared Cosart. Rod Barajas picked up a RBI single into center field, and Garrett Jones, who replaced Jake Fox as the designated hitter, connected for a two-run single.
The lead, however, didn’t last long as the Astros scored three of their own to tie the game at 6. Right-hander Chris Leroux, who is out of options and is battling for a spot in the Pirates bullpen this spring, gave up a three-run triple to J.B. Shuck to center field.
Righty Jared Hughes gave up the Astros go-ahead run in the bottom of the 8th inning, an infield RBI single to Ben Orloff. But the Pirates battled back in the top of the 9th inning, scoring the tying run after Jarek Cunningham (minor league camp) grounded into a force out to score Evan Chambers (minors) from third base.
Infielder Matt Hague singled into center and scored the go-ahead run on a RBI hit by Kelson Brown (minors). Dan Grovatt (minors) plated the second run of the inning with a knock into center field in the Pirates 9-7 win at Osceola County Stadium.
- Relief: Evan Meek: 2IP, K; Chris Leroux: IP, 2H, 3R, 2BB, 2K; Jared Hughes: IP, 3H, R, K; Jose Diaz: IP, 3BB, K; Michael Dubee: IP, H
- Yamaico Navarro went 4-for-4 for with a triple and RBI; Nate McLouth went 3-for-6; Casey McGehee reached base safely in four of his five plate appearances with a single, double and pair of walks; Rod Barajas went 2-for-4 with an RBI.
Monday Game Info:
- The Pirates will face the Baltimore Orioles at McKechnie Field at 7:05 PM. Lefty Erik Bedard will face Baltimore’s Tommy Hunter. Tony Watson, Jason Grilli and Juan Cruz are expected to follow in relief.