MIAMI — For two games, the Miami Marlins loosened the lug nuts on the Pirates bullpen. Sunday, the wheels finally came off.
As the rotation continued rounding into form, the Pirates’ relief struggles continued in Sunday’s 3-2 walk-off loss in 10 innings against the Marlins at Marlins Park.
“I don’t see any common thread other than we didn’t shut out the innings, we didn’t close the innings off,” manager Clint Hurdle said. “I don’t think it’s any particular thing that’s dripped into each one of the guys where it’s happened.”
Former Pirate Casey McGehee served as the hero for the Marlins, driving in all three runs. His two-run double tied the score in the eighth and he won the game with a sacrifice fly in the 10th.
Three Pirates relievers issued five unintentional walks in the ninth inning of Friday’s game that allowed four runs to score, forcing extras. Stolmy Pimentel gave up two two-run home runs in the ninth inning Saturday. The Pirates won both games.
Add the three runs allowed Sunday by Tony Watson and Jared Hughes, who took over after seven scoreless innings from Vance Worley, and the bullpen allowed 11 runs in 112⁄3 innings in the three games against the Marlins. The unit ranked 25th in the majors in ERA in June entering Sunday.
“I think you’ve got to look at each game,” said Hurdle, noting that disparate circumstances led to the runs allowed each time. “It’s kind of like a golf course. Each hole plays different.”
The starters, meanwhile, held the Marlins to four runs in 22 innings of work.
The score was tied, 2-2, after nine innings. Rafael Furcal fouled a pitch off his leg leading off the bottom of the 10th and fell over in pain, but stayed in to finish the at-bat. After Furcal singled to center off Hughes, Ed Lucas pinch-ran.
Reed Johnson bunted Lucas to second, opening first base for the Pirates to intentionally walk Giancarlo Stanton. That brought McGehee to the plate. Hughes (3-2) threw a wild pitch, allowing the runners to advance to second and third. Because of that, McGehee’s sacrifice fly to right field scored Lucas.
The Pirates led, 2-0, thanks to RBI hits from Starling Marte and Josh Harrison, until the eighth. Watson entered the outing with a 21-game scoreless streak. He had not allowed a hit in his past 82⁄3 innings.
Pinch-hitter Jeff Baker reached when Pedro Alvarez bounced a throw to Ike Davis at first on Baker’s grounder. Furcal also singled. Watson struck out Johnson and Stanton before McGehee, who entered the game with the second-best average with runners in scoring position in the league at .403, drove a double to the wall in left-center to score two runs.
“Tough, definitely, with the way Vance pitched and the way we’ve been battling,” Watson said.
Alvarez’s errant throw was one of three misplays in the field. He committed a throwing error in the third and could not corral a hard-struck ball by Marcell Ozuna in the ninth.
“Gratuitous scoring,” Hurdle said. “We only ended up with one error on the game. He’s got to continue to fight, to work through it, to dot that [first baseman] up and give him better balls to handle.”
Alvarez has a routine, Hurdle said, involving drills, footwork and repetitive throwing in an effort to improve his throws, which have given him trouble at times this season.
“We’ve encouraged him not to worry; to work,” Hurdle said.
Despite loading the bases with no outs in the top of the 10th against A.J. Ramos, the Pirates couldn’t break the tie. Russell Martin grounded into a 5-2-3 double play. Ramos (4-0) intentionally walked Alvarez to re-load the bases for Clint Barmes, a late-inning defensive replacement. Barmes struck out.
Worley joined the Pirates organization in a March 25 trade from the Minnesota Twins in exchange for cash. He began the season in extended spring training working with special assistant to the general manager Jim Benedict, where they revisited his success with the Philadelphia Phillies in 2011-12.
“We just watched a little bit of film, threw some bullpens, some extended games and just kind of nitpicked with the mechanics a little bit, mentality and just getting everything back on track,” Worley said.
Worley allowed five hits and struck out five without walking a batter.
The loss broke a four-game winning streak. Andrew McCutchen extended his hitting streak to 11 games, Marte’s streak reached seven and Gregory Polanco now has a hit in each of his first six games.
Bill Brink: email@example.com and Twitter @BrinkPG. First Published June 15, 2014 4:48 PM