Gomez shines in spot start as Pirates get win

Rob Biertempfel
| Tuesday, May 7, 2013, 10:03 p.m.

If Jeanmar Gomez was surprised to be starting Tuesday against the Seattle Mariners, he sure didn't pitch like it.

Gomez calmly tossed five scoreless innings and guided the Pirates to a 4-1 interleague victory.

About two hours before the game, James McDonald was placed on the 15-day disabled list due to a cranky right shoulder. The Pirates gave the ball to Gomez, who was well rested after making a spot start last Wednesday in Milwaukee.

“They told me after I threw (long toss) with the other pitchers,” Gomez said. “I had to get my mind and my body ready. It was hard because I'd already done my workout. But the team needed me, so I got ready.”

Gomez (2-0) gave up just two singles, walked two and struck out five. Because he's been in a relief role and hasn't been fully stretched out, 66 pitches over five innings was about his limit.

“He really picked me up, and he picked the team up,” McDonald said. “I owe him, big time.”

In his six starts this season, McDonald had only one scoreless stretch longer than four innings. Gomez has not yielded a run in seven of the nine innings he's worked as a starter.

The Pirates have not named their starter for Sunday's game against the New York Mets, which would have been McDonald's. Manager Clint Hurdle wasn't ready to commit to Gomez but hinted the job might be his.

“I like what I've seen,” Hurdle said. “That's the second time he's answered the bell for us in a starting opportunity, so ...”

Five relievers followed Gomez and held the Mariners at Bay. Closer Jason Grilli stayed perfect in save chances, notching No. 13.

The last-minute pitching change forced Mariners manager Eric Wedge to adjust on the fly.

“Everyone scrambled as much as they could,” Wedge said. “But the kid pitched a good ballgame.”

It was the Mariners' first game at PNC Park since 2004 and was their first loss in four games all-time in Pittsburgh.

The Mariners have won seven of their past 11 games but have not won more than three in a row this season.

“I still don't think we've figured it out yet,” outfielder Jason Bay said. “We've got some things to work out, but we've definitely got the (pitching). Offensively, we're better than what we've shown.”

It was the 298th big league start for Mariners righty Aaron Harang, who will turn 35 Thursday. In the first inning, time appeared to be catching up to him.

The first three Pirates batters reached base and produced a 2-0 lead. Starling Marte legged out an infield single. Travis Snider and Andrew McCutchen followed with back-to-back RBI doubles.

But, as happened Sunday in a loss against the Washington Nationals, the Pirates were unable to deliver a knockout punch in the first inning.

Garrett Jones grounded out, which moved McCutchen to third base. Michael McKenry — a last-minute starter after catcher Russell Martin's neck locked up during pregame warmups — flew out to shallow right field. Pedro Alvarez struck out.

Alvarez has whiffed in 13 straight games and is hitless in his past 11 at-bats. With runners in scoring position, Alvarez has fanned 15 times in 28 at-bats.

After the rocky start, Harang (1-4) settled in. He retired 18 of the final 21 batters he faced and finished with six strikeouts in six innings.

The Mariners got their run in the seventh inning. Dustin Ackley singled and scored on Raul Ibanez's pinch-hit, two-out double.

Garrett Jones hit a two-run homer, his fourth of the year, in the eighth.

Rob Biertempfel is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at rbiertempfel@tribweb.com or via Twitter @BiertempfelTrib.

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