Following the Pirates 3-2 walkoff win in 12 innings at PNC Park, Pirates skipper Clint Hurdle continued to express his pleasure with the club’s pitching this season.

Pittsburgh enters game action on Monday with one of the best pitching staff’s in the Majors.

The Pirates team ERA is ranked No.2 in all of baseball with a 3.15 ERA.  They trail only the Washington Nationals, who sport a 2.73 ERA.

After the bullpen’s 4.0 scoreless innings performance yesterday, they dropped their ‘pen ERA to just 2.61 –which is the fourth-lowest in the Majors behind Baltimore (2.13), Texas (2.24) and Cincinnati (2.50).

“I couldn’t be any more pleased with the pitching,” Hurdle said after the game yesterday. “Did you guys, did you have this from our pitching? The first 35 games of the season? Seriously. This is good stuff…I thought we’d be good. But what they’ve done so far 35 games in –that’s why we’re still sniffing and hanging around. I love what they’re doing off the mound.”

 

Right-hander Brad Lincoln will get the start tonight in Miami in place of lefty Erik Bedard, who was bumped to Wednesday due to back spasms. It will be his first start for Pittsburgh this season, and first since April 13 with Triple-A Indianapolis.

The righty has been scored upon just once with the Pirates –posting just an 0.63 ERA over seven outings (14.1 innings) from the bullpen. Lincoln has only been stretched out to 3.0 innings (twice). The most pitches (41) coming his last outing when Bedard was removed with the back spasms. Hurdle said he would keep an eye on Lincoln around the 60 pitch mark and go from there.

“I don’t know how many pitches he’s going to be capable of throwing,” Hurdle said. “To think he can throw 100? I don’t know. That’s a lot. We’ll see. We’re going to encourage him to keep pitching like he’s been pitching…“We’re going to encourage him to go as long as he can and we’ll figure it out from there…He’s a strong kid. I won’t put him a box right now. I think we’ll just watch as we go and start paying attention once we get north of 60.”

After the club used four relievers in the game yesterday, Hurdle said he was going to talk to General Manager Neal Huntington following the game to “assess the damage” in case they would need to make a move to bring up a fresh arm.  No moves were made, so it looks as if they feel okay with those available. Jason Grilli, Joel Hanrahan, Juan Cruz and Tony Watson all pitched an inning in relief yesterday.

Hurdle said after the game that he felt they could have pitched another seven innings from the ‘pen if they needed in the 12 inning win:

“We had plans going forward. We had [Chris] Resop, who could throw multiple innings…[ Jared] Hughes is still in play. We had Lincoln still in play, that’s why I didn’t hit him in [James] McDonald’s spot. He’s a much better hitter. But in an event we farther, I’ll take my starter tomorrow plus him in today if it ends up 18, 19, 20 innings. We’ve got volume. We probably could have covered another 7.0 innings.”

So it looks that tonight Hurdle can call upon Hughes and Resop for length.

 

 

Game tidbits from the extra inning affair:

  • Hurdle on going 5-4 during the homestand:

“You look at the big picture. You try and take your emotions and you put them on the side. We had nine game sat home. You’d always like to win all of them. Until we put that package together — we’re pitching heavy like we are now, defense has showed up, the offense is still trying to find it’s way. Two days ago, I would have given up a small body part to go 5-4 the home stand. Here we are, we went 5-4. We won the last two series. I do see some encouraging signs on the offense. I always want to be optimistic, but realistic. There’s more there. We’ve got to put it in play more. We’ve got to cash in on opportunities.”

  • During the game the Pirates used both their catchers and also Casey McGhee, who is their emergency catcher was out of the game, when Michael McKenry was hit by a pitch on the knee. He took a minute, but stayed in the game. Thankfully. It made an interesting question. Who would the Pirates have used if the Fort was injured? Hurdle laughed when he was asked who the fourth catcher would have been:

“That would have been –I can’t tell you that. I know who it would have been. We had one in place. And I did have one more first baseman if need be.”

  • Clint Barmes played first base in yesterday’s game for the first time in his professional career. Rod Barajas, who he replaced at first, made his first appearance there since 2008. After the game, Barmes talked about his first experience on that side of the diamond:

“It was fun. It was exciting to get that opportunity. Just standing in a different spot, one that I’m not familiar with. I want to say unfortunately there was nothing hit where I had to cover first. In a way, I was that upset either.”

“Honestly, I felt pretty comfortable. I was on that side of the field playing second base for a few years. He just asked me if I had ever played first. I said, ‘No. But I’ll do whatever I need you to do skip.’ Rod got a base hit and they told me I was going to run for him if he did. Which meant, I was going to fill in at first. It was fun. It was exciting.”

 

 Pregame Notes:

  • By the way — The Pirates have won their last six home games that went to extra-innings (since June 3, 2011). According to the Elias Sports Bureau, it’s the longest current winning streak of its kind for any major-league team and it matches the longest such streak for the Pirates over the last 35 years (1978 to date).
  • Pirates Lineup: Jose Tabata 9 Neil Walker 4 Andrew McCutchen 8 Pedro Alvarez 5 Casey McGehee 3 Alex Presley 7 Rod Barajas 2 Clint Barmes 6 Brad Lincoln 1
  • Alex Presley returns to the lineup after not starting five of the past seven games. Presley has been working on regaining last seasons swing and has been going through a slump at the plate.
  • Lefty prospect Justin Wilson was removed from his outing today due to tightness in his right groin.

 

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