SAN FRANCISCO – The Pirates got a stellar complete game shutout from Vance Worley Monday night, on the way to a 5-0 win against the San Francisco Giants at AT&T Park.
The Pirates bats came alive at the plate early as the club chased left-hander Madison Bumgarner from the game after four innings. But it was Worley – with that remarkable efficiency -- and a few key defensive plays that stole the show.
“At the start of the third time through the lineup the stuff was crisp,” said manager Clint Hurdle. “I just loved the way that when he got a baserunner he made the pitches he needed to make. We made some nice plays behind him…He had command of all his pitches tonight and really kept a very good rhythm and pace and spotted the ball up extremely well.”
Worley gave up just four hits, and allowed just one baserunner to reach scoring position in the ninth. He threw just 100 pitches, struck out three, and walked one.
Catcher Russell Martin said his four-seam fastball, which has some cut to it, combined with a two-seamer accounted for some difficult at-bats.
“They’re moving two, three inches both ways, and it’s just enough and when you’re hitting on the corners it’s a tough at-bat,” said Martin, who said they also mixed in his slider and curveball.
The game clipped along and Martin had that inkling Worley might go the distance after six.
“I looked up and we were in the sixth inning and he had 48 pitches or something. I’m like ‘OK tonight could be a good night for him,’” said Martin. “He was throwing strikes, which means guys have to swing the bat. He just attacked. A lot of quality strikes. Strike one to get ahead in the count and from there hitters were a bit more defensive. He just never made too many mistakes over the middle of the plate.”
Pablo Sandoval opened the fifth inning with the Giants first hit of the night.
Sandoval’s time on the base path was short as Jordy Mercer and Neil Walker turned an impressive double play to clear the bases.
Mercer gloved a grounder by Michael Morse directly behind the second base bag, flipped it with his glove to Walker who, falling to his left, made the throw cleanly to first base for two.
“We were just having fun,” said Mercer. “Just awesome to play behind a guy like Worley tonight, the stuff he had. Working quick, throwing a lot of strikes, they were making early outs. It was a fun game.”
Worley's only previous major league complete game came on July 26, 2011 against San Francisco as a member of the Philadelphia Phillies. He beat Barry Zito, 7-2, that night giving up just two earned runs on three hits with one walk and five strikeouts. He threw 114 pitches.
He said he never truly thought about how many innings he could complete on Monday, just took the game one pitch and batter at a time.
“Russell’s pretty smart back there. The less I have to think and the more I can just keep pitching that’s going to keep the game flowing,” said Worley. “One pitch at a time. I was just thankful to have great defense behind me that allowed me to go deeper. They definitely flashed some good leather behind me, a couple of nice double plays, line drives…that helped the pitch count stay down.”
The win comes on the heels of a 1-2 start to a 10-game road trip, and bumps the Pirates record up to 56-49.
Greg Blanco got aboard for the Giants second hit of the night with a dribbler down the third base line that sat fair to open the sixth. He was caught stealing by Martin and Worley closed out the inning with a fly-ball out and grounder.
Joe Panik drew a one-out walk in the seventh, but Buster Posey grounded into a double play to end the inning.
Sandoval singled again in the eighth, with a grounder up the middle, but was thrown out at second by Brent Morel on a grounder by Morse.
Worley finished the eighth at 86 pitches, took his turn to bat in the top of the ninth before returning to the mound to finish the job.
Hunter Pence tripled to right-center field with two outs in the ninth, but Panik grounded out to end the game.
Worley said he was aided by early run support.
The club went up 4-0 in the first inning on two RBI singles and two sacrifice flies, taking advantage of shaky command by Bumgarner who reached 42 pitches before Morel’s groundout finally ended the inning.
Worley, batting ninth, was on deck and nearly had a chance to swing the bat before he threw a single pitch.
Bumgarner walked Josh Harrison to open the game, gave up a single to Mercer up the middle, and walked Andrew McCutchen before recording his first out, a sac fly by Gaby Sanchez.
Neil Walker stroked a grounder up the middle to drive in Mercer, Russell Martin followed with another grounder up the middle to score McCutchen and Walker slid safely home on a sac fly by Gregory Polanco to right field.
Harrison made it 5-0 in the second with a home run to left field on a 2-2 slider.
Worley was also aided by Mercer’s defensive work in the fourth, when he made a nice play on a grounder up the middle by Panik.
Bumgarner marked the last in a gauntlet of left-handers the Pirates have seen since the All-Star break, a stretch where the club faced lefty starters in 8 of 10 games.
His 42 pitches in the first inning were a career-high, breaking the previous record of 41 set in the fourth inning on April 5, 2011 against the San Diego Padres.
Bumgarner went four innings, giving up six hits, five earned runs, including one home run. He walked two and struck out two.
He yielded to reliever Yusmeiro Petit in the fifth, who kept the Pirates off the bases for two innings. Juan Gutierrez retired the Pirates in order in the seventh and eighth innings, got one out in the ninth before yielding to Javier Lopez.
Jenn Menendez: email@example.com and Twitter @JennMenendez. First Published July 29, 2014 12:00 AM