Pirates' bats bust out in 9-8 victory over Orioles
When the Pirates scored eight runs over the first two innings Wednesday, it should have been enough to get left-hander Wandy Rodriguez his first victory of the season.
It probably would have been — if Rodriguez had pitched well enough to stay in the game beyond the second inning.
The Pirates overcame Rodriguez's brief, awful outing and outlasted the Baltimore Orioles, 9-8. Tony Sanchez won it with a run-scoring single in the seventh inning.
The Pirates got four runs in the first inning off right-hander Chris Tillman. The Orioles came up with six runs in the second, knocking Rodriguez out of the game.
“It's frustrating,” Rodriguez said. “I threw good, quality pitches, but they hit the ball.”
Because of throwing error by Rodriguez, only one of the six runs he allowed was earned. He yielded seven hits, including Nelson Cruz's solo home run, and walked one.
“Every time we make a mistake, it seems we get spanked,” pitching coach Ray Searage said. “Sometimes, you get impatient. You've got to hold on and weather the storm.”
Searage paused and laughed.
“Man, I'm holding on to that mast and the ship is rocking, but I'm not letting go.”
Neither is manager Clint Hurdle. Although Rodriguez, winless in six outings, is one of four starters who are scuffling, Hurdle does not seem ready to yank the leash on any of them.
“Wandy's going to get an opportunity to pitch and see what he can do,” Hurdle said before the game. “I'm here to tell you, we're not going to move (Francisco) Liriano. As long as he's healthy, we're going to keep feeding him the ball and help him find his way back.”
Edinson Volquez, mindful of keeping his walks down, is throwing too many pitches in the zone. Hurdle wants the right-hander to “fine-tune the strikes.”
Charlie Morton always seems to be bitten by one big inning. Yet, Hurdle is encouraged by the more frequent scoreless frames when Morton becomes a ground-ball machine.
“There are challenges to each individual guy,” Hurdle said. “We're well aware of what we have developing down there (in the minors) and the options we could have if we need to go there.”
In other words, don't expect Jeff Locke (who was an All-Star last year) or Brandon Cumpton (who has a 1.35 ERA at Triple-A Indianapolis) to move into the Pirates' rotation anytime soon.
With a $13 million salary this season, Rodriguez is the highest-paid player on the team. Liriano ($6 million) and Volquez ($5 million) rank fourth and sixth, respectively. Morton ($4 million) got a three-year, $21 million extension in December.
The best pitcher on the staff is Gerrit Cole — a bargain at $512,500. Cole, who has been in the majors less than a year, is 4-3 with a 3.84 ERA.
Rodriguez's next turn in the rotation will be Monday against the New York Mets. Will he make it?
“I'm not even going to go there right now,” Hurdle said with a sigh.
Vin Mazzaro, who tossed 3 1⁄3 scoreless innings, was the first of five Pirates relievers. Lefty Justin Wilson was stuck on the left arm by Nick Markakis' liner in the sixth but stayed in the game.
The Pirates don't have an off day until June 5, which might lead to some creative roster management to bolster the bullpen. Mazzaro will be out of action for the next game or two. Wilson could be benched a day if his bruised arm stiffens.
The Pirates took a 4-0 lead in the first. Andrew McCutchen (double), Starling Marte (triple) and Ike Davis (single) delivered run-scoring hits.
Tillman faced four batters without getting an out in the second. He was yanked after Pedro Alvarez's single tied the game at 6-6. Davis drove in the go-ahead run with a single to center off Brad Brach.