Pirates banged-up late, but early offensive surge beats Giants
With the season’s second four-game winning streak in the books, starting pitchers who continue to string together zeros and now a defense that hasn’t made an error in more than a week, the first-place Pittsburgh Pirates are faced with this question:
What new troubles lurk around the corner?
That’s right. The Pirates are winning, but they’re doing it as much with bandages and rehab as bats and balls.
They scored four runs in the first inning, none in the next seven and needed five relief pitchers to support starter Jordan Lyle’s six shutout innings to defeat the San Francisco Giants, 4-1, Friday night.
That was the good news for the 15,049 at PNC Park. The bad was Lyles coming out of the game with a contusion on his right throwing hand before shortstop Erik Gonzalez and center fielder Starling Marte collided while chasing a bloop single in the eighth inning.
Both were on the ground for several minutes before Gonzalez walked off the field on his own and Marte rose up to ride off in a golf cart.
“It’s unfortunate. You hate to see your men laying on the field,” manager Clint Hurdle said. “It was like a yard sale out there. There’s hats. There’s gloves. It’s hard,” he said.
“They were full speed,” Lyles said. “Hopefully, they’re OK.”
“We need those two guys on the team,” catcher Francisco Cervelli said.
Hurdle offered no medical update on his injured fielders – for his part, Lyles said he is fine and plans to make his next start – but the Pirates (11-6) have somehow built a one-game lead in the National League Central after putting 11 players on the injured list since March 1. Eight are still there, including outfielders Corey Dickerson, Gregory Polanco and Lonnie Chisenhall.
In the seventh, Hurdle used starting pitcher Joe Musgrove as a pinch-hitter, ignoring second baseman Adam Frazier, who was replaced in the starting lineup by Pablo Reyes. Hurdle’s explanation for using Musgrove, who had struck out in his four previous at-bats this season, didn’t shed any light on the situation.
“We felt the best opportunity we had was to not put Frazier in the game right then,” he said.
Strange, but no one’s complaining about the results.
“We’ve been doing it here for years,” Hurdle said of his team’s next-man-up mentality. “It’s not easy by any means.
“Your depth is being challenged right now, but I like the way that our men have just continued to focus on who’s available, who’s playing the game, who’s going out there pitching.
“It seems to cut you a little bit more of a break when you can pitch it well and not have to slug with other teams. They’ll embrace the challenge whatever it might be.”
Lyles, who is 2-0 after crafting three quality starts, was backed up by three double plays, including Melky Cabrera, essentially the third-string right fielder, throwing out Brandon Crawford at home plate in the second inning.
“We’re good,” Lyles said after he was hit by a line drive off the bat of Joe Panik that turned into a double play. “A little cautionary. Clipped on a couple fingers.
‘In between innings, it started to swell up a little bit. I felt like we might have been better off with another guy out there. Just lost a little feeling.
“We’re good to go. We did some tests. I’ll be ready for my next start.”
Before all the drama revealed itself, Hurdle was most pleased that the Pirates were able to score four runs after the first two batters were retired in the first inning against tough left-hander Madison Bumgarner.
The big hit was a two-run double by Cervelli, who came into the game 0 for 24.
“It feels like a base hit in the World Series to win, incredible,” Cervelli said. “What you guys have been seeing is not me. I feel a little embarrassed, but this is the game. We have to figure it out.
“When you have a rough time, there’s a lot of negative talk surrounding you. But in this moment, what defines yourself is how you get out and how tough you can be. That’s the real you.
“Hitting is not easy. Sometimes, it’s super hard, you know.
Jerry DiPaola is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jerry by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .