Pirates edge past Diamondbacks in another nailbiter
PHOENIX — Eight of the Pirates` first 12 games this season have been decided by one run. Manager Clint Hurdle doesn`t mind the nailbiters — with one important caveat.
'I absolutely love one-run games that we win,' Hurdle said Wednesday after the Pirates took a 2-1 squeaker from the Arizona Diamondbacks.
'The beauty of a one-run game is, it really lays it out there for the players to look at the execution that`s involved,' Hurdle said. 'What can happen. Why you win. Why you lose. It lets guys know what kind of club we are.'
By now, it`s easy to ID the Pirates. They must scrape for runs. They can`t afford to be sloppy on defense. They usually can rely on their pitching, especially the bullpen.
It played out that way again Wednesday.
'The past few games, we`ve done a good job of pitching and getting timely hitting,' said Pedro Alvarez, who smacked a game-tying homer. 'That`s going to win us some ballgames.'
Right-hander Daniel Hudson (1-1) yielded just three singles over the first six innings. Alvarez homered in the seventh to make it 1-1. In the eighth, the Pirates won it with three straight two-out hits.
Clint Barmes and Andrew McCutchen hit back-to-back singles up the middle, knocking Hudson out of the game. Walker followed with a bloop single that fell among three Diamondbacks in shallow center.
'When you break your bat and drive in a run to win a game, it`s kind of sweet retribution for all the balls you hit hard that were caught,' said Walker, who nudged his average up to .244.
It was the second game in a row the Pirates scored the decisive run late in the game with a two-out, bases-empty rally.
'It`s a ‘don`t-give-in` mentality,' Walker said. 'Several times, a guy has hit the ball up the middle to keep things going, then the next guy does the same thing. When you give in to the attitude of using the middle of the field, not trying to hit home runs or do too much, all those things kind of steamroll.'
Last season, the Pirates were 21-22 in one-run games. Twelve of those losses came after the All-Star break, when the once-promising season soured.
This year, Walker said, there`s a different mood in the Pirates` dugout when the score is tight.
'When we played those games last year, there was a little bit more anxiety than there is now,' Walker said. 'Our nerves are way more calm this year. We obviously don`t want to play one-run games. But the way our bullpen pitches, the way we play defense, it only helps us focus a little better. It makes us focus a little more on the offensive side.'
The victory, coupled with the 5-4 comeback late Tuesday, was an encouraging finish to an otherwise dismal road trip. The Pirates went 3-6 on their swing through Los Angeles, San Francisco and Arizona.
'This is huge way for us to end this road trip, considering how it started,' Walker said. 'Now, we get to go home, regroup on the day off and go to a place where we like to play.'