Pitching didn’t so much take a backseat to offense Wednesday night as it jumped headlong out of the car.
Wandy Rodriguez threw the first pitch to Nick Markakis at 7:15 p.m. Before Tony Sanchez grounded out to end the second inning — 1 hour 17 minutes later — the game would see a combined 14 runs on 15 hits and two errors, offensive production that forced both starters from the game after a combined 22⁄3 innings.
The bullpens eventually slowed the onslaught, and the Pirates came away with a 9-8 win against the Baltimore Orioles at PNC Park. They split the two-game series, and the Pirates have won two of their past three games after losing three in a row and five of their previous six.
Sanchez broke a tie in the seventh. After Justin Wilson and Bryan Morris each gave up a run in the seventh that allowed the Orioles to tie the score, 8-8, Starling Marte bunted for a single against Orioles reliever Ryan Webb to start the bottom half of the inning. He ran on the pitch to Ike Davis, who singled. With Marte on third, Sanchez passed up a first-pitch slider before hitting a back-door two-seam fastball to right for an RBI single.
“I spent the whole batting practice trying to hit the ball into the four-hole and stay through the ball, let the ball get deep,” Sanchez said. “He threw that back-door two-seamer, and I was able to do that with that pitch.”
Rodriguez, making his second start after spending a month on the disabled list because of inflammation in his right knee, threw 61 pitches in 12⁄3 innings and allowed six runs on seven hits. Through the vagaries of official scoring, only one of those runs was earned, but Rodriguez committed the error that made it so.
“We were hoping he would have been sharper, but that’s what we got tonight,” Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. “We were able to pick it up from there and move on.”
Asked if Rodriguez would make his next start, Hurdle said, “I’m not even going to go there right now.”
Rodriguez fell behind batters and threw only 37 of his 61 pitches for strikes. Rodriguez’s problems ran the spectrum of hard contact, like Nelson Cruz’s line-drive homer, to bad luck, including a checked-swing infield single and a double that bounced off third base.
Orioles starter Chris Tillman wasn’t much better.
In one-plus innings, he allowed eight runs, six earned, on six hits and three walks.
The Pirates offense came to life as Andrew McCutchen went 3 for 5 with two doubles, and Marte and Ike Davis each had three hits and two RBIs.
Morris earned the win in relief, and Mark Melancon picked up his seventh save.
The Pirates started the barrage in the first. Tillman threw 49 pitches in the first inning of his start May 1 against the Pirates, and they found a way to repeat that formula.
Josh Harrison worked a leadoff walk and scored on McCutchen’s double off the right-field wall. Pedro Alvarez lined a hard single to center, putting runners on the corners, and Marte scored them both with a flare down the right-field line that turned into a triple.
Davis drove in the fourth run with a single, and Tillman finished the inning with 34 pitches.
“That’s what happened to us last time we were in Baltimore, the same thing happened,” McCutchen said. “We got a lot of guys on base, loaded the bases, and we got a couple runs out of it, but he came back and kind of settled in. We just stayed within ourselves this time.”
The Orioles forced Rodriguez to throw 43 pitches to 10 batters before giving way to Vin Mazzaro for the final out of their six-run second.
Cruz led off the second with his 14th homer, a laser beam to left. J.J. Hardy scooped a low, inside pitch into the left-field corner for a double and Jonathan Schoop dribbled an infield single to put runners on first and third with no outs.
Rodriguez’s throw to first on Tillman’s bunt pulled Davis off the bag, loading the bases, and Markakis’ sacrifice fly to deep center scored another run.
Manny Machado doubled off the wall in right to score another run. That put runners on second and third for Adam Jones, who walked to load the bases for Chris Davis, whose checked-swing dribbler scored a run.
Cruz provided the final bad-luck blow with a two-run double that bounced off the third-base bag and over Alvarez’s head, and Rodriguez was done. He said he didn’t feel any added pressure to improve his performance.
“It’s always my goal to compete and give all of what I have,” Rodriguez said in Spanish, with bullpen catcher Heberto Andrade translating. “Sometimes, things don’t work the same way.”
As quickly as Rodriguez surrendered the lead, Tillman followed suit.
The Pirates scored four second-inning runs on four hits, a walk and an error.
Both bullpens restored order. Mazzaro pitched 31⁄3 scoreless innings for the Pirates and Brad Brach shut out the Pirates for four innings.
Bill Brink: firstname.lastname@example.org and Twitter @BrinkPG.
Bill Brink: email@example.com and Twitter @BrinkPG. First Published May 21, 2014 10:56 PM