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.
I am becoming increasingly concerned about Locke – the control issues are not new, but he just seems to labor through every start of late. Maybe he just needs to miss a start or two to get some rest and re-energized?
I am not a big Hughes fan – and was not thrilled that they sent Black down and replaced him with Hughes.
Nice hitting for a change and it was good to see Jones get the HR – maybe that signals the beginning of a solid hitting stretch for him. Where would we be without Jordy Mercer this year? A good solid MLB player.
BF: ML hitters have a tendency not to notice or at least not pay attention to newby pitchers until the newby starts to put up numbers that are worth looking at and then they do advanced scouting. Two excellent examples of hitters getting smarter can be seen in the recent outings of both Jeff Locke and the Mets Matt Harvey. And, this is happening at a time when both of these young pitchers are “hitting the wall”. In Locke’s case I think the hitters are laying off his sucker pitches, he is at a point where the number of innings are taking a toll, and both of those lead to a guy who is throwing with less confidence than he was before the AS Game.
We needed another experienced guy in the BP and the Jared Hughes of 2012 is just the right guy for the job – but he has not been that same pitcher in 2013. Vic Black is being handled correctly in that he will be up in Sep which is only a week away, and he may also see time in the AFL this Fall. Guys like Mazzaro, Gomez, Wilson, and Watson have carried the supporting group of the BP and Melancon and Grilli have been the best pair of 8th/9th guys in the majors.
Right. The Pirates will need to make a decision on Hughes after this season. If you believe his injury was the reason for his poor pitching early in the season, then give him a chance with mopup duty for the remainder of the season to determine if you want him back in 2014. I would love to have the 2012 version of Hughes.
We need more games like this where it is really hard for Hurdle to mismanage it into a loss.
James: Good article. Just wondering, do you get the opportunity to attend the games on the West Coast? The bats were alive and Gomez saved a bad performance by Locke. Four walks in less than 5 innings would not have gotten him a promotion to the “show”, and he needs to think very long and hard about that between now and his next start. ‘Cutch and Pedro continue to lead the offense, but it is very nice to see the contributions of Jose Tabata, Gaby Sanchez, and Jordy Mercer. Martin and Walker have been steady, but the biggest blow of the night was the bomb by Garrett Jones to lead off the 2nd inning. We have needed him and we have been waiting a long time – I would much rather see him being productive in the lineup so that we do not have to sacrifice big bucks and possibly prospect(s) to get Justin Morneau.
emjayinTN — I’m in San Francisco now. That’s why the cutline says San Francisco.
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