The Pittsburgh Pirates secured its 20th series victory with a 4-1 victory Wednesday night against the Arizona Diamondbacks.
J.A. Happ [1-1] went six innings for the Pirates in his longest start with the team. He also surrendered two hits, his lowest total as a starting pitcher since September 12, 2014 against the Tampa Bay Rays.
In the game, the Pirates recorded a three-run second inning.
The inning started when Jung Ho Kang was hit by a pitch. Francisco Cervelli then added a single and Kang took the turn and ended up at third base. A bizarre play then unfolded at the end of Michael Morse’s at-bat. Morse struck out on a wild pitch and Kang was able to come home and score.
Things did not improve in the inning for Diamondbacks starter Robbie Ray [3-9]. Sean Rodriguez singled in a run to give the Pirates a 2-0 lead.
Rodriguez had three hits for the first time this season, a game-high.
“He’s working hard to get better and he believes there is more to him,” manager Clint Hurdle said. “I liked the direction of the hits tonight. He likes to contribute on both sides of the ball.”
Happ then had a sacrifice bunt attempt go wrong as Rodriguez, the lead runner, was thrown out at second base. With Happ on first, Gregory Polanco hit a double. Happ got a head start on the full count offering, and ran home to score the third run.
Joakim Soria pitched the seventh inning and struck out two in his fourth consecutive scoreless outing. Each of his last three full inning appearances have been 13 pitches or less.
Starling Marte nearly ran out a foul ball hit in the seventh inning by Jared Saltalamacchia, however ballgirl Amanda Ardinger tried to make a play on the ball and could not get out of the way fast enough forcing the Pirates left fielder to stop in his tracks.
Saltalamacchia ended up grounding out to second so no harm, no foul.
“I would have been close to that one,” said Marte. “I was close to diving but I saw the girl and I had to shut it down. I was surprised, but I didn’t want to hit the girl.”
In the eighth, Tony Watson came on and got three ground balls for a quick eighth inning. It was his 30th hold of the season and his ninth straight scoreless outing.
The Pirates saw Starling Marte reach base with a lead-off double, his 23rd of the season and Andrew McCutchen singled placing runners on the corners. This opportunity was almost squandered when Aramis Ramirez lined out and after Kang walked, a Cervelli strike out. Pinch-hitter Pedro Alvarez stepped to the plate and received a loud ovation, before he walked scoring a run off Zack Godley.
Antonio Bastardo came on to pitch the ninth however Ender Inciarte singled and Nick Ahmed walked. With a runner in scoring position, Hurdle removed Bastardo from the game and brought in Mark Melancon to close the game.
Melancon first faced Paul Goldschmidt and allowed an RBI single which scored Inciarte. This run was charged to Melancon, his first allowed this month. He was able to strike out A.J. Pollock and Jared Saltalamacchia on knuckle curves. Melancon then struck out pinch-hitter David Peralta to earn his major-league leading 38th save of the season.
The Pirates begin a four-game series against the San Francisco Giants Thursday when Charlie Morton [7-4 4.36 ERA] takes on Jake Peavy [3-5 4.18 ERA]. Morton is 3-4 with a 2.84 ERA in 11 career starts against the Giants.
Photo credit: Matt Freed/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette