Pirates earn painful victory vs. White Sox
The victory came easily Tuesday, 7-0 against the majors' worst team. But the Pirates are cautiously hopeful it did not come with a price.
Two of their top players left their win against the Chicago White Sox: Starling Marte because of right-side discomfort while running the bases as he scored a run in the first inning, and Francisco Cervelli because of pain in his right forearm after being hit by a 94 mph pitch in the fourth inning.
After the game, Cervelli had a bandage on his arm but assured "it will be fine, no problem." But Marte was not available in the clubhouse, and the Pirates had no immediate word on the possible severity of his injury.
"We will know more (Wednesday)," manager Clint Hurdle said. "Maybe."
Injuries to key contributors would be about the only thing that could put a damper on the Pirates right about now. They've won six of seven and 12 of 18 to improve to 24-17 and will enter Wednesday's 12:35 p.m. game in no worse than sole possession of second place in the NL Central.
"You have two players leave this game tonight," Hurdle said, "so I don't think it's time to get big-chested and start beating on it right now.
Trevor Williams pitched seven shutout innings, Josh Bell had three RBIs and Adam Frazier homered for the Pirates on Tuesday.
It didn't take long for the Pirates to jump on the White Sox, who have lost eight of nine and are off to their worst start in 70 years at 10-28.
The Pirates had a 3-0 lead after seven pitches from Reynaldo Lopez (0-3), whose 2.44 ERA coming into the game was eighth-best in the American League.
He'd leave the game with a 3.50 ERA after lasting two-plus innings, charged with six runs on seven hits and two walks. Six of the Pirates' hits over the first two innings went for extra bases, including Frazier's home run over the Clemente Wall on the second pitch Lopez threw.
Lopez's third and fourth pitches were balls to Gregory Polanco. But the next three — a Polanco single, Marte double and Bell double — were smacked for hits, the latter of which drove in the former two.
"We didn't miss pitches," Hurdle said, "and once it started the way it did, I think our confidence jumped."
Bell scored on a Colin Moran two-out double, and Bell's double the next inning drove in Sean Rodriguez to make it 6-0. Rodriguez, who was Marte's replacement, preceded Bell's second double with an RBI triple.
Five of the Pirates' seven hits off of Lopez were off of off-speed pitches; four of them came within the first two pitches of an at bat,
Both were by design, Bell said.
"He was throwing strikes, he was pounding the zone, using his offspeed early," Bell said. "So it was just anticipating balls being in the zone and not necessarily trying to get a swing off of him (on) 97, 98(-mph pitches).
"It definitely was fun ball. Once things start rolling, you let out that sigh of relief earlier and earlier, and when it comes in the first inning like that, you can kind of coast, score a couple more runs and then coast – especially the way Trevor is pitching, it just takes the pressure off you."
Williams (5-2) lowered his ERA to 2.72, not allowing a walk against any of the 27 men he faced over seven innings. He threw 94 pitches, striking out six.
Although the outing didn't appear perfect because he allowed eight fly ball outs – some of them well-hit – Williams intentionally was elevating his fastball.
"Playing on their over-aggressiveness," Williams said. "I don't light up the radar gun, so I am sure their eyes get big when they see '92.'
"They take big swings… Some guys will take big swings and go for home runs…. And they play for the big inning, so we took advantage of that and executed at the top of the zone."
Kyle Crick and Richard Rodriguez finished off the Pirates' MLB-leading seventh shutout of the season with an inning each.
Between them, Marte and Cervelli have combined for 12 home runs, a .306 batting average, .916 OPS and 2.5 wins above replacement for a Pirates team that began the night within a game of first place in the National League Central.
Through a quarter of the season, Marte and Cervelli were both on pace to have career seasons in a bevy of statistical categories, using both traditional and advanced metrics.
Cervelli is second among MLB catchers in home runs (six) and wins above replacement (1.4) and leads all major-league catchers in OPS (.981). Marte entered Tuesday sharing the NL lead in triples (four), tied for third in steals (10) and tied for fifth in hits (now 47) and runs (now 30).
Chris Adamski is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at email@example.com or via Twitter @C_AdamskiTrib.