Fill-in OFs help Pirates to 4-3 victory over Cardinals
As their top outfield prospect continued to toil in the minor leagues Saturday, the Pirates were forced to play their backup first baseman and starting shortstop in right field in a 4-3 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals.
After Starling Marte and Andrew McCutchen were cut down by injuries, Gaby Sanchez played the fifth, sixth and seventh innings in right field. Jordy Mercer went into right in the eighth inning.
Neither Sanchez nor Mercer had played in the outfield before in the majors. Mercer appeared in left field in one game for Triple-A Indianapolis in 2011.
“I told them, ‘Play deep and straight up and you'll be fine,' '' said McCutchen, who could not play due to what the team termed “left foot soreness.”
McCutchen said he can't pinpoint the cause of his injury but expects to play Sunday night when the Pirates will try to sweep the three-game series.
On April 11, McCutchen left a game against the Milwaukee Brewers in the eighth inning with discomfort in his left ankle. He was back in the lineup the next day.
Marte started in center field Saturday, even though he has been bothered by tightness in his lower back. After hitting a weak grounder in the third inning, Marte walked away in obvious discomfort. Sanchez pinch-hit for Marte in the fourth.
“It's been hurting for a while,” said Marte, who winced as he tugged on his socks.
There was no immediate word on the severity of the injuries to McCutchen and Marte, or if the Pirates will bring up an extra outfielder from Indianapolis on Sunday.
“Why don't we talk about the game first, and we'll talk about the injuries later?” manager Clint Hurdle snapped after the game.
On Friday, the Pirates filled an open spot on their active roster by calling up infielder Brent Morel from Indy. They bypassed outfielders Gregory Polanco (who's batting .373), Jaff Decker (.240) and Chris Dickerson (.312).
Polanco, 22, is the highest-rated prospect in the Pirates' system and, like Decker, already is on the 40-man roster. Dickerson, who signed a minor league deal over the winter, has six years' experience in the big leagues.
Neither Sanchez nor Mercer needed to record an out in the outfield.
“There's going to be nerves because I've never done it,” Sanchez said.
“I was trying to take it like it was (batting practice) and I was shagging balls. I'm glad nothing got hit over there. But I can catch fly balls. It's just a different angle, a different spot.”
Mercer never even played outfield in Little League.
“I had to do whatever it takes to help the team win,” Mercer said. “I didn't question it one bit. I got an outfielder's glove and got ready. End of story.”
Trailing 3-0 in the fourth inning, the Pirates loaded the bases with none out off Cardinals starter Lance Lynn (4-2). Two run-scoring grounders and three straight singles gave them a one-run lead.
Starting pitcher Edinson Volquez hit a bouncer to shortstop, which drove in Ike Davis. Jose Tabata's grounder to second scored Tony Sanchez.
Josh Harrison's low liner ricocheted off the pitcher's mound away from second baseman Mark Ellis, who was breaking toward the bag. By the time Ellis backtracked to the ball, Harrison was at first base with an infield single that scored Mercer to tie the game at 3-3.
Neil Walker's single moved Mercer to third. Pedro Alvarez followed with a run-scoring single up the middle — the first time in nine at-bats that he hit the ball out of the infield.
The four-run outburst covered for a spotty outing by Volquez. The right-hander worked only 4 2⁄3 innings and gave up three runs on four hits, walked three, hit one batter and fired two wild pitches.