Pirates manager Clint Hurdle sometimes warns against trying to do too much. Saturday night, the Pirates accomplished a great deal without doing much of anything.
The Pirates took advantage of Miami Marlins starter Carlos Zambrano's battle against the strike zone, sending 10 men to the plate in the fourth inning and scoring four runs without getting a hit. They held on for a 5-1 win at PNC Park, their fourth victory in a row.
"I don't think I've ever been a part of something like that," said Alex Presley, who worked two of the walks.
The Pirates (53-40) remain a half-game behind the Cincinnati Reds, who defeated the Milwaukee Brewers Saturday night, in the National League Central Division. The win moved the Pirates to 13 games above .500, their best mark of the season, and assured the Pirates of a series victory against the Marlins, improving their series record to 18-9-4.
The Pirates worked six walks against Zambrano (5-8), three of them in the decisive fourth. Zambrano threw only 48 of his 97 pitches for strikes.
"He's a guy that gets frustrated if you work him and things don't go his way," Presley said. "That's kind of what we wanted to do, get him working. Look in a spot, if he throws it there, then swing. If not, we'll wait for the next pitch and see what happens."
The Pirates had two hit batsmen, four walks, two sacrifice flies and two strikeouts in the fourth. Zambrano hit Rod Barajas and Clint Barmes with no outs to put two on. A.J. Burnett bunted, advancing the runners, but John Buck threw the ball away, allowing Barajas to score.
Zambrano walked Presley to load the bases for Neil Walker, who hit a sacrifice fly to left that scored a run.
Zambrano walked Andrew McCutchen to load the bases, then walked Garrett Jones to score a run before leaving the game. Chad Gaudin replaced Zambrano and walked in another run, but struck out two to end the inning.
"We bit at some balls down, especially in the first inning," Hurdle said. "We had to take it upon ourselves to show better discipline to get where we needed to get offensively. We showed some discipline, getting the ball up, laying off some pitches."
Zambrano allowed five runs, four earned, in 3 1/3 innings, striking out two. He pounded the outside part of the zone, but often fell into three-ball counts. He had walked six twice this season and had 57 in 106 2/3 innings entering the game.
The lack of control hurt Zambrano from the start. For the second consecutive night, Presley worked a leadoff walk, seeing nine pitches from Zambrano in the process. For the second consecutive night, Jones drove him in from the cleanup spot. Saturday he did so with a ground ball to second, and the Pirates led, 1-0.
The Pirates struggled against Gaudin, who pitched 3 2/3 innings in relief with one hit and five strikeouts. By the time he entered, the damage was done, and Burnett ensured it stayed that way. He won his 11th game of the season and pitched 7 2/3 innings, allowing one run on eight hits.
"I had a lot of movement," Burnett said. "I told Rod, 'I don't feel that great tonight.' He's like, 'Well, your ball is going everywhere.' When you hear him behind the plate telling you that, it gives you confidence that you can throw it wherever."
He needed only 80 pitches to get through six innings, helped by a double play in the second that limited his pitch count in the inning to nine. He made quick work of the fifth and sixth innings, needing only a combined 20 pitches, and finished with 104.
Burnett exited after allowing two hits in the eighth. The crowd of 39,411 roared as he raised his glove in appreciation. Brad Lincoln replaced him and earned his first career save, striking out three in 11/3 innings.
Burnett pitched at least seven innings for the second consecutive start.
Justin Ruggiano hit a 3-1 fastball over the Clemente Wall in right field for his seventh home run of the season in the second, tying the score at 1-1.
Jeff Karstens starts today for the Pirates, who have the chance to sweep their fourth series of the season.pirates
Bill Brink: firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @BrinkPG. First Published July 22, 2012 4:00 AM