Jason Martin’s 2-run homer in 9th leads Pirates past Phillies in spring opener
CLEARWATER, Fla. – When Pittsburgh Pirates centerfielder Jason Martin misplayed a deep fly ball, the Philadelphia Phillies scored the game-tying run in the top of the eighth inning.
But Martin made up for his mistake in a big way, hitting a two-run home run in the top of the ninth to lift the Pirates to a 3-2 victory over the Phillies Saturday in the Grapefruit League opener at Spectrum Field.
The Pirates got off to a strong start in their first spring training game. Left-hander Steven Brault, one of a handful of pitchers competing for the fifth spot in the starting rotation, high-fived pitching coach Ray Searage after throwing strikes on 19 of his 23 pitches in two innings.
That performance was rewarding for Brault, who had trouble getting ahead in counts and throwing pitches for strikes last season and spent the offseason adjusting his arm slot to attack the strike zone.
“It felt really good,” Brault said. “It’s one outing, but it’s really nice to take a whole offseason of work, not take time off and really change a lot of stuff and be able to come out and get the results that I wanted.
“The results that I want are attacking the zone and getting ahead of hitters consistently, and that’s what I did.”
Brault worked his way out of a first-inning jam despite back-to-back errors by the Pirates. After Patrick Kivlehan booted a Jean Segura single to right, Colin Moran overthrew first base on an Andrew McCutchen grounder to third. But Brault got Rhys Hoskins – a good off-speed hitter because of his elongated swing – to pop up on a changeup. Brault followed by striking out J.T. Realmuto swinging to end the inning.
Shortstop Kevin Newman put the Pirates on the scoreboard first. Newman doubled, advanced to third on a groundout and scored on a wild pitch by Jose Alvarez for a 1-0 lead in the fourth inning.
The Phillies tied the game at 1-1 in the eighth when Martin misplayed a Dylan Cozens fly to center, and Cozens’ double scored Arquimedes Gamboa. But Martin broke the tie by taking Luke Leftwich deep to center, driving in catcher Christian Kelley for a 3-1 lead. The Phillies added a homer from Matt McBride in the bottom of the ninth.
Geoff Hartlieb got the victory for the Pirates. Leftwich took the loss.
Notes: Nick Kingham is scheduled to start for the Pirates against the Miami Marlins in their home opener at 1:05 p.m. Sunday at LECOM Park. … Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said Jung Ho Kang will start at third base for the Pirates against the Marlins. … Martin played the final four innings in center, after super-utility man Pablo Reyes got the start and batted leadoff. … In addition to Martin and Newman, rightfielder Bryan Reynolds got a single as the Pirates had only three hits. … McCutchen went 0 for 2 with a strikeout, reaching on the throwing error, in his Phillies debut after signing a three-year, $50-million contract.
Kevin Gorman is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Kevin by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter .