Pirates climb back in the fourth to beat Kansas City Royals, 5-3
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Only three balls traveled beyond the infield dirt in the bottom half of the fourth inning. One was an out. Another ruled a fielder's choice.
But the Pirates poured five runs on the Kansas City Royals in the fourth, climbing back from an early deficit en route to a 5-3 victory Saturday night at PNC Park.
With the win, and a loss by the first-place Cincinnati Reds earlier in the afternoon, the Pirates (31-27) are one game out of first place in the National League Central and four games over .500.
The bottom half of the fourth featured two infield singles, two walks, a hit batter, two Royals pitchers and 10 Pirates batters who turned a three-run deficit into a two-run lead.
Pedro Alvarez led off the inning with a seven-pitch walk, and Royals starter Vin Mazzaro hit Jose Tabata with a 91-mph fastball on the hands. Rod Barajas singled through the right side of the infield, loading the bases with no outs.
Barajas' single was the best-hit ball of the inning, though the Pirates produced four RBIs after it.
Clint Barmes hit a grounder that Alicedes Escobar contained in the infield with a diving stop, but not before Barmes reached first and Alvarez scored. Matt Hague followed with a blooper that dropped in shallow right field, ruled a fielder's choice when Eric Hosmer's throw home was bobbled at the plate by Brayan Pena, allowing Tabata to score.
Alex Presley followed with a sidewinding infield single that scored Barajas and tied the score, 3-3.
The Pirates scored twice more in the inning without getting another hit. The hardest hit ball of the fourth was one that Alvarez lifted to left field for the third out of the inning.
The offensive outburst helped the Pirates salvage a poor outing from James McDonald, who had been their hottest pitcher this season. McDonald struggled with his command, throwing only 46 of his 76 pitches for strikes. He left the game after four innings, having allowed three earned runs on five hits. He walked two batters.
The Royals (24-33) threatened to climb back in the game in the sixth inning, when an error and a hit put runners on first and second with no outs. But Pirates relievers Doug Slaten and Jared Hughes combined to get the next three batters to fly out, preserving the Pirates' lead.
Hughes pitched 2 1/3 scoreless innings, allowing one hit and striking out two. He was credited with the win, his second of the season.
Joel Hanrahan retired all three batters he faced for his 17th save of the season, tied for the fourth most in the major leagues this season.
The Pirates chased Mazzaro from the game with no outs in the third. He allowed four runs, three earned, on three hits. He walked four and struck out four as his ERA rose to 3.60 from 2.25 in his fourth outing of the season.
Mazzaro did find on the other side of the plate, tagging McDonald for his first major league hit. Mazzaro made weak contact on a 92-mph fastball, but it found a hole through the right side of the infield and scored Hosmer from third as the Royals increased their lead, 3-0.
The Pirates wasted a good offensive opportunity in the third inning. A double steal gave the Pirates runners at second and third with one out and Andrew McCutchen at the plate. But McCutchen grounded out to third base, and Garrett Jones followed by grounding out to third to end the inning and keep the Pirates scoreless.
The Royals jumped on McDonald in the top of the third, when Yuniesky Betancourt turned on a hanging 73-mph curveball and planted it in the seats near the left-field foul pole, scoring Alex Gordon and giving the Royals a 2-0 lead, their first of the series.
It was the fourth home run McDonald had surrendered in 12 starts this season.
The Pirates drew 39,312 fans to PNC Park for their fourth sellout of the season and the seventh largest crowd in PNC Park history.
First Published June 9, 2012 10:46 pm