Bucs Bullpen Lights Out in 11-5 Win Over O’s

SARASOTA, Fla. — After right-hander James McDonald struggled with his fastball command, allowing five runs on six hits over three innings, the Bucs relievers were light’s out at Ed Smith Stadium in Sarasota, Fla., on Wednesday afternoon. Tim Wood, Joel Hanrahan, Evan Meek, Jason Grilli and Jared Hughes combined to toss six scoreless frames giving up just one hit to the O’s hitters the remainder of the game. The lone hit came off Hughes with one out in the 9th inning.

“We needed to put a stop to it out there, and they came in and were very effective. Very effective,” Pirates Manager Clint Hurdle said. “Everybody threw strikes, worked ahead, kept the ball down. That’s always going to be a recipe for success. We had some guys spin the ball extremely well today, as far as the sliders, breaking balls, that type of thing. But the fastball command sets that up and our bullpen was very effective with fastball command. They followed the glove. Quick outs. Very effective.”

Right-hander Evan Meek, who is looking to bounce back from an injured plagued 2012 season, struck out one over his inning of relief today.

“I think everything’s coming,” Hurdle said of Meek’s spring. “Everything is moving. [He’s] moving forward incrementally. I think we’ve seen  progress every time he’s taken the mound so far.”

McDonald had his first rough outing of the spring on Wednesday in his fourth start of the Grapefruit League. Overall, McDonald allowed five runs on six hits with two walks and two strikeouts over three innings.

“Today was mediocre,” Hurdle said. “The success that he had was when it was downhill and he was ahead in counts. The problems he had was he was behind in counts, the ball got up and flattened out. He didn’t have much command today and didn’t have any secondary pitches to go to. The positives to take is that he threw 60 pitches. But he’s got things on his to do list that he’s still got to take care of.”

“I always try to take something good out of it,” McDonald said. “I don’t really try to focus on the negative. I might do that for 10-15 minutes, then I’m good after that. This, what I would take out of it? When we play the Orioles, keep the ball down. That’s what I get out of this. ”

With one out in the 1st, McDonald gave up a solo-homer to the Orioles shortstop J.J Hardy to left field. McDonald then went on to strike out his next two batters. The run, however, ended the Pirates streak of 10.0 consecutive scoreless innings by their starting pitchers.

“You could probably tell by watching it,” McDonald said of his performance. “It didn’t feel too good. You gotta keep the ball down. They put good swings on the ball. I got to execute better.”

Neil Walker and Garrett Jones lead off the 2nd inning with back-to-back singles off starter Jake Arrieta. Pedro Alvarez followed by ripping a single to the opposite site to load the bases with no outs. Clint Barmes hit a two-run double into deep left center field to take a 2-1 lead. With two outs, Alex Presley hit a two-run single to left field to plate the fourth run of the frame, but was caught trying to stretch hit into a double to end the inning.

After retiring his first two batters in the 3rd, McDonald gave up his second solo-home run of the game, this time to third baseman Mark Reynolds. Nolan Reimold following by ripping a double into left field. Reimold swiped third base and McDonald allowed a walk to put runners on the corners. Endy Chavez hit a RBI single to bring the game within one run. Hardy picked up his second RBI and the fourth off McDonald of the inning with a single into center field to tie the game at 4.

“They’re big league hitters, and if you throw bad pitches, they’ll make you pay. Spring training or regular season, it doesn’t matter,” McDonald said. “I was throwing a lot of fastballs…Regardless of what I’m working on, I still got to execute what I’m working on. 90 percent of the time if you execute the things you’re working on, you know it’s going to be pretty good. I didn’t execute well today.”

In the 4th, McDonald struggled for the second straight inning. With one out, McDonald gave up his second walk of his outing. Nick Johnson hit a RBI double off the wall in right field. Reynolds picked up his second RBI of the game with a RBI ground out to second to take a 5-4 lead.

Fastball command McDonald said is crucial for him. “Once I get fastball command down, I feel like I have a better feel for all my other pitches.”

“That was one of my goals when I went into the meetings with [General Manager Neal] Huntington and Clint. They asked, ‘What do you want to work on?’ I said, ‘for me, hands down fastball command.’ If I got fastball command, I feel like the game is so much more smoother and easier. I get guys out easier. I have more fun. Fastball command is big for me.”

Presley showed off his speed in the top of the 5th inning after hitting a leadoff single to center field. Quickly after, Presley stole second and scored on a RBI single to right by Andrew McCutchen to tie the game at 5. The hits kept coming for the Bucs. Walker singled and Jones hit a RBI double to right field to take a 6-5 lead. Alvarez picked up a RBI of his own with a one-out sac fly.

The Pirates tacked on four more runs in the 7th inning off the Orioles reliever Willie Eyre. Starling Marte, who replaced McCutchen in center, hit a one out single, stole third base and scored on an error by Baltimore’s third baseman.

“It’s been a staple all year,” Hurdle said of Marte’s stolen base. “We’re going to take some chances here. We’re going to find out who can, who needs to work on it. It’s a play we have. We got guys that are capable of doing it.”

Yamaico Navarro, who reached on the error, and Matt Hague, who hit a single up the left side, scored after Josh Harrison ripped a two-run triple into deep right center field. Eric Fryer drove in the fourth run with a RBI single.

After struggling over their last two games combining for just six hits against the Tampa Bay Rays and Philadelphia Phillies, the Pirates bats were out swinging again combining for 11 runs on 15 hits in the Pirates 11-5 win.

Game Notes:

  • Relief: Tim Wood: IP; Joel Hanrahan: IP, BB, 2K; Evan Meek: IP, K; Jason Grilli: IP, BB; Jared Hughes: 2IP, H, BB, 3K
  • Alex Presley 2-for-4, R, 2 RBI, SB; Andrew McCutchen 1-for-3, R, RBI; Neil Walker 2-for-3, 2R; Garrett Jones 2-for-2, R, RBI, BB; Clint Barmes 1-for-2, R, 2 RBI, BB; Pedro Alvarez 1-for-2, R, RBI

Thursday Game Info:

  • The Pirates are scheduled to play the Minnesota Twins in Fort Myers at 1:05. Lefty Jo-Jo Reyes is expected to start for the Bucs against righty Terry Doyle.
  • Chris Leroux, Juan Cruz, Daniel Cabrera, Shairon Martis and Doug Slaten are scheduled to follow in relief.
  • ALSO TOMORROW: Lefty Erik Bedard is scheduled to pitch four innings in a minor league game at Pirate City.

“We want to see [Reyes] pitch against the stiffer competition. [Bedard]’s going to make the club,” Hurdle said.