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Erik Kratz Pitches a Shutout Inning, But the Pirates Lose, Obviously

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PITTSBURGH — Wilfredo Boscan got off to a promising start. The 26-year-old right-hander retired nine of the first ten San Francisco Giants batters he faced.

That’s when the wheels fell off.

The second time through the Giants’ lineup did him in, as the next seven batters reached base and seven runs later, Boscan was in the shower and the Pirates were well on their way to a 15-4 loss. Boscan pointed to an 11-pitch battle with Brandon Crawford that ended with a base-loaded walk as the turning point in the game.

“That at-bat was a little bit challenging,” Boscan said through translator Mike Gonzalez. “I knew facing him, what I wanted to throw to him and I really did not expect for him to battle out that long. It was a little difficult and challenging. Did it wear me out? Maybe a little bit, but that’s just something that happens in the game.”

Boscan had pitched out of the bullpen for the Pirates five times previously this season and twice with Triple-A Indianapolis, but in his last minor-league start, he threw six shutout innings. So the length of his outing shouldn’t have been an issue, but his battle with Crawford put him at 26 pitches on the inning and the 27th, a fastball to Angel Pagan, cleared the center field wall for a grand slam.

“I don’t know whether the at-bat to Crawford took some steam out of him, but after that, you walk a guy, and the mentality is you have to throw a strike,” manager Clint Hurdle said. “You throw a strike to a dead-red fastball hitter, the guy has a chance to ambush you.

“It’s just a tough situation — the bases loaded and nobody out — and Crawford had that long at-bat,” catcher Jacob Stallings said. “He fouled off some really good pitches. When a guy is out there that long, he’s bound to get tired and he just started missing with location a little bit, as opposed to the first three innings when he was just spot on. That’s a good team, with a good lineup. If you miss your spot, they’re going to hurt you.”

Even with the bases cleared, Boscan was clearly gassed. Gregor Blanco doubled and then Conor Gillespie homered and Hurdle had seen enough.

“After Crawford, it did get a little bit more challenging,” Boscan said. “I though that the strike zone got a little bit smaller. I was throwing some pitches that to me, the umpire could have called as strikes, but he didn’t. Then I threw that fastball (to Angel Pagan) and I threw that breaking ball to Gillespie, that’s when things started going downhill.”

The Giants piled up six lefties and a switch hitter against Boscan. Those batters combined to go 6 for 14 against him, taking advantage of the lack of finish on his changeup and sitting on his fastball, which sat at 89 to 91 MPH.

“We just wanted to stick to his strengths and do the same things he’s been doing at Triple-A all year,” Stallings said. “He’s really good at pitching inside, both side of the plates really, and he’s got that changeup that’s really good. He was lights out the first three innings, and in the fourth inning, we just kind of missed our spots together.

“He has really good movement on his fastball, even his four-seam fastball. His fastball and changeup were what we were using the first time through the order and he was really spot-on. I think they had one hit the first time through the order. I just thought, with that long inning, he just got tired, and when you’re tired, he just didn’t hit his spots.”

Needless to say, that wasn’t the way Boscan was envisioning his first Major League start.

“I was mentally prepared, ready and focused to give it my best,” he said. “I did feel ready walking to that mound at the beginning of the game to start it off. I felt ready, I felt prepared, and for the first three innings, I was productive. The fourth one got a little challenging. That’s just something that happens in the game.

MARTE LEAVES WITH INJURY

Center fielder Starling Marte left the game in the top of the eighth inning with what the team described as left foot discomfort. He was injured while chasing down a hard-hit line drive to left-center off the bat of Ramiro Pena.

“I just felt it was best to get him out of the game at that particular time with where we stood,” Hurdle said. “There was no need for him to continue trying to play through.”

CUT DOWN BY CUETO

The Pirates’ bats couldn’t muster much of anything off Giants’ starter Johnny Cueto. He gave up just one run in 6.2 innings while striking out six.

“Johnny was really good,” said Giants manager Bruce Bochy. “He’s had an unbelievable first half, and he kept it rolling tonight.”

He’s also been rolling through the Pirates. Since his infamous loss in the 2013 Wild Card Game, he hasn’t lost a start against Pittsburgh and his career record is now 19-4. Needless to say, there were no “Cue-to” catcalls on this night.

“I guess they were not calling my name because they know that I always win against them,” Cueto said through a translator. “After I lost the wild card game against them I told myself I needed to just concentrate and try to win as many games as I can.”

‘BITTERSWEET’ FIRST

Stallings got his first Major League hit and RBI with his double in the seventh inning. He called it “bittersweet” because of the score of the game, but still a memorable moment.

“All of my college coaches and family were here to see it and it was pretty special,” he said. “Some of the Giants guys and all of our guys said congratulations. That’s when it really set in.”

Stallings finished 1 for 4 with a strikeout and is now hitting .125 on the season.

CATCHERS DO IT ALL

Catcher Erik Kratz was supposed to have the night off. But when Marte left the game, he was the last bench player, so he came in and played first base, with John Jaso moving to the outfield.

Then, with the score out of hand and the Pirates out of bullpen arms, Hurdle turned to Kratz to pitch the ninth. He didn’t allow a run, gave up two hits and struck out Brandon Belt, a .304 hitter.

“Probably a lot is going right for him this year if he’s hitting .300, so I’m sure he’ll shake it off,” Kratz joked.

“I want a rematch,” deadpanned Belt. “I was either gonna hit it in the water or strike out. And I struck out.”

It’s not he first time Kratz has pitched. He threw an inning with the Houston Astros earlier this year and has made five minor-league appearances on the mound.

“It’s something that it happens in games that are unfortunate,” he said. “You don’t want to come in and have to pitch because it’s probably not real good for the team. Hopefully, it saved somebody’s arm in the bullpen and that can help us down the road.”

Also utilized because of the bench crunch was Chris Stewart, who was supposed to have the night off because of his sore knee. He pinch hit in the eighth inning and stayed in the game at first base so that Kratz could pitch. They even teamed up for a 3-1 put out.

Using Stewart means that he can’t be retroactively placed on the disabled list, so a quick recovery now is imperative.

“I feel alright, not 100 percent, but I don’t know if I ever feel 100 percent out there,” he said. “I was able to get enough done, though, where I’ll be good to go tomorrow.”

NOTES

• With the team trailing 9-0 heading into the 7th inning, center fielder Andrew McCutchen was removed from the game in a double switch. Hurdle said that there was no injury to McCutchen, he was just taken out because of the score and the desire to get two innings out of reliever Jorge Rondon.

• Francisco Liriano will face Jeff Samardzija in the third game of the series Wednesday night at 7:05.

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