Pirates bullpen drops chance at series sweep in late loss to Marlins

Travis Sawchik
| Sunday, June 15, 2014, 4:48 p.m.

MIAMI — The bullpen breakdowns have become chronic for the Pirates, and so to have Pedro Alvarez's throwing issues.

An errant Alvarez throw contributed to the Pirates' major league-worst 13th blown save opportunity Sunday and a 3-2, 10-inning loss to the Marlins. The defeat kept the Pirates from sweeping the Marlins and rising above .500 for the first time since April 14.

Having already made one throwing error in the game, his MLB-worst 15th of the season, Alvarez could have been given another error when he one-hopped a throw to allow Jeff Baker to reach to begin the eighth. It was the first hit Pirates reliever Tony Watson had allowed in 8 23 innings.

“We've encouraged him not to worry, to work,” Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said of Alvarez. “There's a number of (poor throws). They've been high. They've been low. (Fortunate) scoring today that we ended up with one error in the game.

“He has to continue to work through it. … He's doing a number of different things. Part of it is drill work, part of it is repetition.”

Even the consistent Watson is not immune to the blown save. Furcal followed Baker with a soft single in the eighth, and two batters later Casey McGehee's two-out, two-run double tied the score at 2-2.

In the 10th, McGehee hit a sacrifice fly off Jared Hughes to score Ed Lucas for a walk-off win. The Pirates bullpen allowed 10 runs in 11 innings and blew two saves in the series.

“I don't see any common thread,” Hurdle said of the bullpen. “(Sunday) we didn't defend the first play of the inning (then) a slow ground ball rolls through, then a guy hits a ball in the gap.”

The Pirates squandered a bases-loaded, no-out situation in the 10th when Russell Martin grounded into a double play and Clint Barmes struck out.

The blown save prevented Vance Worley from picking up a win in his first start as a Pirate.

Worley arrived in Miami in possession of the unusual athletic glasses with which he pitches, and a distinctive nickname — “Vanimal” — that speaks to his aggressive mound temperament. Worley wears the glasses because he cannot use contact lenses. He received the nickname from his college strength coach, who praised his work ethic.

Beyond those attributes, the Pirates weren't sure what they were getting with Worley when they acquired the 26-year-old right-hander from the Twins for cash considerations in late March.

What the Pirates might have received is much-needed pitching depth. Worley tossed seven scoreless innings Sunday, showing excellent command of his fastball and cutter filling in for injured starter Francisco Liriano.

Worley allowed five hits, struck out five and did not walk a batter.

“I told Vance he's a perfect Pirate already. He's had some success, and he's been beat up,” Hurdle said. “He pounded the zone. The tempo and the pace was really good.”

Worley was available after he posted a 7.20 ERA with Minnesota last season. Worley said he was not healthy entering last season. He had bone chips removed from his elbow at the end of last season with the Phillies and then developed biceps tendinitis in spring training. Worley said he is healthy and credited organizational pitching guru Jim Benedict for fixing flaws in his mechanics this spring.

“I've come a long way,” Worley said. “We nitpicked with the mechanics and mentality, and we just kind of got things back on track.”

Rookie Gregory Polanco had two more hits – both infield singles – as he pushed his hit total to 12 in his first six major league games.

Travis Sawchik is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at tsawchik@tribweb.com or via Twitter @Sawchik_Trib.

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