When Vin Mazzaro pitched five perfect innings of relief Sunday, he did something no other Pirates pitcher had done in 94 years.
Mazzaro's five perfect innings were the most out of the bullpen for a Pirates pitcher since 1919, when Elmer Ponder threw 52/3 innings of relief against the Philadelphia Phillies.
"I was more focused on getting through the innings and trying to keep the team in the ballgame," Mazzaro said. "That was my main focus. I didn't really realize what was going on."
He didn't know until after the game he had pitched five perfect innings. He didn't learn until Tuesday just how rare that was.
"I just wanted to go out there and eat up as many innings as possible, save the bullpen a little bit," he said.
But there was one big difference between Mazzaro's and Ponder's outings: The Pirates won Mazzaro's game.
Mazzaro used just 44 pitches to retire 15 batters, and 31 of those pitches went for strikes.
"It was as efficient a five innings as I've seen pitched," manager Clint Hurdle said. "Ever."
It was the most impressive outing in what has been a strong season for the converted starter, acquired by trade this offseason after struggling in Kansas City. In 27 appearances, Mazzaro is 4-2 with a 2.52 ERA. His hits-per-nine-innings ratio is at a career low 8.5 and his strikeout-to-walk ratio is at an all-time high at 2.56.
Last season in Kansas City, Mazzaro went 4-3 with a 5.73 ERA. The Pirates designated him for assignment in the offseason but he stayed on the roster after clearing waivers. He didn't make the team out of spring training but has thrived since the Pirates added him to the active roster in April.
"Once we told him why we wanted him to go to the bullpen, I think he understood better," Hurdle said. "It wasn't that we didn't think he could pitch. We wanted to give him a clean chalkboard, and maybe he could recreate."
Mazzaro, 26, had some experience as a reliever, pitching out of the bullpen in each of his past four seasons in the major leagues. But he had never been used exclusively out of the bullpen until this season.
It has been an adjustment for the right-hander to pitch multiple innings one outing and then throw one inning or less in the next. But he credits his past as a starter for allowing his body to quickly recover after long outings.
"I'm used to throwing multiple innings," he said.
His shared history with Ponder is "crazy" and "cool," he said. But more important, he said, he is happy the Pirates won and that he left the game in good shape.
"I feel good after going five innings," he said. "That's all that really matters."
Locke to start tonight
The Pirates recalled right-handed pitcher Brandon Cumpton to start Tuesday night against the Phillies and optioned Josh Harrison to Class AAA Indianapolis.
Jeff Locke, who was scheduled to start Tuesday but warmed up in the bullpen in Sunday's 14-inning victory, will start today and Jeanmar Gomez will move to the bullpen.
Michael Sanserino: firstname.lastname@example.org, 412-263-1722 and Twitter @msanserino.