It appeared the Pittsburgh Pirates bullpen would finally allow a run as the Oakland Athletics had runners on first and third base with one out in the sixth inning.
Pirates manager Clint Hurdle had been ejected earlier in the inning, his second removal of the week, and A.J. Schugel was tasked with keeping his team up 4-3 on the scoreboard against the Athletics.
Stephen Vogt was the batter and defensive replacement David Freese would be put to the test. Vogt hit a hard line drive to Freese who stepped on first base to complete an inning-ending double play.
An inning later, the Pirates, specifically Neftali Feliz, were put to the test once again.
Tyler Landendorf singled to lead off the seventh inning, and Coco Crisp singled placing runners on first and third with no outs.
Feliz put himself in a very tough spot and only he could get himself out. He did just that striking out Marcus Semien, got Josh Reddick to slam his bat toward the ground after a pop out and struck out Danny Valencia.
Escaping these two jams provided the Pirates with big boosts and a 6-3 victory earning a series sweep.
The win places the Pirates at 41-41 — the first time they have been at .500 since June 16.
Things have not gone according to plan for Francisco Liriano (5-8) for more than a month now and control issues have massively effected his season.
Liriano earned his first victory since May 30, with this game marking his seventh start since the last win.
By no means was Liriano masterful, allowing three runs on six hits in five innings, but he had one walk and displayed more consistency while getting eight ground ball outs.
His tenacity was not initially rewarded as the Athletics scored first again plating two runs on a Billy Butler double and Matt McBride ground out.
Daniel Mengden (1-4) had his fair share of inconsistencies, allowing 11 base runners (four walks) in 5.1 innings pitched.
It took until the fifth inning for the Pirates to score a run.
Mengden did himself no favors allowing a lead-off double to Adam Frazier and walking Jordy Mercer. Frazier would be thrown out at third base during Erik Kratz’s at-bat as part of a fielder’s choice.He also hit John Jaso with a pitch, loading the bases with one out.
Gregory Polanco wasted no time tying the game up, singling to center field. The Pirates had runners on first and third but two strikeouts ended the rally.
The Athletics reclaimed the lead in the bottom half of the inning on a Crisp single. This lead did not last long as Frazier recorded his first major league triple scoring Josh Harrison.
Kratz hit what ended up being the game-winning run later in the inning singling in Frazier on an 0-2 pitch.
After the Athletics failed to capitalize on two serious scoring opportunities, the Pirates separated themselves when David Freese hit a two-run home run in the eighth inning.
Freese’s homer, his eighth of the season, came off former Pirate John Axford and also scored Jordy Mercer.
Mark Melancon pitched the ninth inning and earned his 24th save of the season.
Pirates relievers now have pitched 32.2 scoreless innings.
The Pirates claimed Eric Fryer off waivers from the St. Louis Cardinals. To make room for Fryer on the 40-man roster, the Pirates designated Rob Scahill for assignment.
Fryer batted .368 with 14 hits in 38 at-bats. This is not his first time with the Pirates. It was the Pirates who first called Fryer up on June 25, 2011. He was designated for assignment on two separate occasions by the Pirates and spent time in both the major and minor leagues. He elected free agency on Oct. 29, 2012. Since then, Fryer played for both the Minnesota Twins and Cardinals.
Rob Scahill had a 4.41 ERA in 16.2 innings this season. Scahill earned a surprise spot on the 2015 Pirates Opening Day roster and pitched well until a forearm injury derailed his momentum and he bounced between the Pirates and Triple-A Indianapolis.
There is no word yet on a corresponding move for Fryer joining the major league roster as he has not yet joined the team.
The current road trip continues when the Pirates travel to St. Louis for a four-game series. The Pirates will toss Jonathon Niese (6-6, 5.07 ERA) against Carlos Martinez (7-5, 2.83 ERA). Niese is 4-4 with a 4.31 ERA in 11 career starts against the Cardinals.
Photo credit: @Pirates