Bedard departs game; bullpen rescues Pirates
It was not quick and definitely not pretty, but the relief corps found a way to make it work.
An extended effort by the bullpen, including one gritty inning by Jason Grilli, carried the Pirates to a 4-2 victory Wednesday over the Washington Nationals.
Five relievers combined to toss eight innings after starter Erik Bedard left the game due to back spasms. Almost every inning was a grind, as the Nationals stranded 10 runners.
“We painted ourselves into some nice, tight corners,” manager Clint Hurdle said. “But each time, they were able to get out of it.”
Things got especially dicey in the eighth. With the Pirates clinging to a one-run lead, the Nationals loaded the bases with one out.
Grilli fell behind 3-2 against Danny Espinosa, then struck him out with a 93 mph fastball. After falling behind 3-1 against Rick Ankiel, Grilli blew him away with a 94 mph heater. He pumped his fist as he left the mound.
“At first, I was trying to be too fine instead of just attacking,” Grilli said. “Not the plan of attack, of course. We made things interesting, but we got the win.”
Closer Joel Hanrahan walked a tightrope in the ninth. With one out, pinch-hitter Steve Lombardozzi was hit on the foot by a pitch. Ian Desmond doubled to center. With two outs, a pitch to Ryan Zimmerman bounced in the dirt, but catcher Rod Barajas blocked it and saved a run. Zimmerman worked the count full, then struck out.
Bedard tossed a 1-2-3 first inning, then was injured while facing the leadoff batter in the second,
“I did it four years ago, too,” Bedard said. “Same thing, one pitch. With back spasms, it usually hurts for a couple of days, gradually goes a away, and then you're fine.”
Bedard skipped a start in 2008 after his back acted up. His next start is tentatively set for Monday in Washington.
Brad Lincoln worked three solid innings, and Jared Hughes tossed two. They combined for eight strikeouts.
“Even though it's a bummer that (Bedard) is out of the game, you have to stay positive,” said Hughes, who lowered his ERA to 1.62 through 10 outings. “We went for the kill when we could and tried to get the strikeout.”
The Pirates scored three runs in a slightly sloppy third inning. With one out, Lincoln struck out but reached first when the ball got away from catcher Wilson Ramos. Back-to-back singles by Jose Tabata and Neil Walker made it 1-0. Andrew McCutchen lined a single to center, scoring Tabata and sending Walker to third. Pedro Alvarez hit a hard grounder to third. Walker broke on contact, slipped during the rundown and was tagged out.
Casey McGehee grounded to deep short. Desmond had no play at first base, then spotted McCutchen rounding third. McCutchen hesitated and Desmond double-clutched. If Desmond had thrown right away, McCutchen would've been an easy out at the plate. Instead, McCutchen slid in safely to make it 3-0. McCutchen went 4 for 4 with two RBI and two runs scored. He hit a solo homer in the eighth.
Rob Biertempfel is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-320-7811.