Joe Musgrove dominates with arm, bat, legs as Pirates top Phillies
Joe Musgrove had plenty to be happy about Saturday night when he pitched the Pittsburgh Pirates to a 5-1 victory against the Philadelphia Phillies at PNC Park.
His head-first slide carried the first run across the plate after his double ignited a three-run rally in the third inning in front of a sellout crowd of 38,380, the largest of the season.
His eight strikeouts matched his season high and gave him 15 in the past two games.
All six of his pitches – two fastballs, slider, curve, changeup and sinker – were working as he held the Phillies to two hits and no earned runs in six innings.
But Musgrove is an athlete who takes pride in giving his team the best chance to win. And when he struck out the Phillies’ J.T. Realmuto to end his sixth and final inning, that was as good as a complete game in his mind.
“I’ve been in that situation plenty of times this year where I get spoiled by a big homer that ties the game or end up getting pulled and not finishing the outing,” he said. “To finish it the way I did with the big punchout, I feel pretty good about it.”
Manager Clint Hurdle was impressed, but not surprised by Musgrove, who lowered his ERA to 4.08 while inching closer to .500 (7-8).
“You see some very special athleticism,” Hurdle said when asked about Musgrove’s work on the other side of the ball. “That’s just the way he’s going to play and the way he’s played since he’s been here.”
On the mound, Hurdle said he liked seeing someone display “the art of pitching.”
Musgrove gave much of the credit to Jacob Stallings, one of many positive reviews the Pirates’ backup catcher has received this season from his pitchers.
“Stalls was spot on with everything,” Musgrove said. “It makes my job a lot easier when I trust my catcher to call the game. It’s almost like he’s the brain and I’m the muscle. You just tell me where to throw it and I’ll throw it there.
“He challenged me a little bit in situations where there are pitches I might not have wanted to throw, but he was convicted in it.
“I trust him back there. If he calls a pitch I’m not 100 percent confident in, I’m going to follow his lead.”
The victory was only the Pirates’ second in eight games since the All-Star break and coincided with the team’s celebration of the 1979 World Series champions. The Pirates (46-51) remained 7 1/2 games out of first place in the National League Central.
Hurdle said he noticed some players getting a bit of juice from the pregame proceedings.
“I do believe our players are cerebral enough,” he said. “We talk about tradition. We talk about history. “And you put it together with real life. You have men who have passed, men whose wives are representing them. You have guys who are not as mobile as they used to be. It’s history. It’s pride and it’s passion.”
For whatever reason, the bats came alive Saturday after slumping slightly since the break. The Pirates collected 13 hits, including six doubles. It was only the third time in eight games the team reached double-digit hits. Josh Bell collected his first RBI since July 5. Starling Marte had two doubles among his three-for-five night. He defended his centerfielder against his critics who question if Marte plays hard all the time.
“He plays hard. He gets things done,” Hurdle said. “We can be very judgmental. “Marte wants to represent. He’s taken positive steps forward. He’s grown.
We don’t have another guy who can play center field like him. We don’t have another guy who can run the bases like him. “The bat’s been showing up and playing in that three spot.”
Finally, the bullpen responded after Musgrove left the game. Michael Feliz, Francisco Liriano and Felipe Vazquez pitched three scoreless innings.
Hurdle was especially happy for Feliz, who allowed a game-winning three-run homer to the St. Louis Cardinals’ Paul Goldschmidt late in Wednesday’s 6-5 loss. Hurdle shouldered his share of criticism for turning to Feliz in that situation.
“You can’t pitch the same two guys, three guys every day,” Hurdle said. “He’s shown the ability to get outs and have good stuff.
“I talked to him after the outing, gave him a day to clear his head. `You’re going to get the ball again, kid, because I believe in you.’
“And his teammates do, too.”
Jerry DiPaola is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jerry by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .