Man. What an awesome game. Fans once again packed PNC Park to watch their Bucs (Homestead Grays) take on the Royals (Kansas City Monarchs) on heritage night. Even though the majority of the crowd was disinterested in the game going on, watching the Pirates continue their hot streak was awesome.
During warm-ups, James McDonald looked fatigued and kept asking for a cup of water; not a good sign for the ace of the staff. He got in to a jam in the first after putting runners on second and third. J-Mac was able to get out of it, but he was laboring pretty hard through the early innings. Yuniesky Betancourt took him deep in the third for a two-run homer, and Kansas City pitcher Vin Mazzaro got his first MLB hit and RBI in the fourth to put the Royals up 3-0.
At some point in the first inning, the out-of-town scoreboard flashed an “F” next to the Tigers-Reds game, showing that the Tigers had won. With a win, the Bucs would move within one game of first. A few innings later it was announced on the big screen, and the few fans that were actually paying attention applauded.
The Bucs came back in the bottom of the fourth to not only tie the game, but take the lead. Pedro Alvarez led off with a walk, and Jose Tabata got hit by a pitch. Rod Barajas singled to load the bases, and Clint Barmes drove in the first run with a single of his own. Matt Hague pinch hit, ending McDonald’s day after just 4 innings on the hill. Hague blooped a shallow fly ball into RF, and Eric Hosmer let it drop. He fired home, and it looked like Tabata was out on the force. It turned out catcher Bryan Pena didn’t have his foot on the plate, and it was ruled an E2. Alex Presley tied the game with an infield single, and Neil Walker gave the Bucs the lead on a fielder’s choice. Garrett Jones drove in the fifth run of the inning on another force out. It was a strange inning, with none of the runs coming on a “clean scoring play”. But hey, you’ll take runs any way you can get ’em.
The bullpen took over with a 5-3 lead in the fifth. Chris Resop pitched a scoreless inning, but was replaced by Doug Slaten in the sixth after he failed to retire the either of the first two batters. Slaten got two flyouts, and then was replaced by Jared Hughes. He got the last out of the inning, and then pitched a 1-2-3 seventh. After giving up a leadoff double in the eighth, Hughes pitched himself out of another jam, and continues to be a huge part of this 2012 bullpen.
Meanwhile, the Royals’ relievers also held the Pirates scoreless. Thankfully, 5 runs would be all the Bucs needed. Joel Hanrahan shut the door in the ninth, pitching a 1-2-3 inning to get his 17th save and the series win.
Your Pittsburgh Pirates are now a game within first place, and will face Bruce Chen tomorrow. A.J. Burnett will take the hill for the Bucs, and he’s been lights-out at PNC this year. With a Pirates win and a Reds (playing the Tigers at 8PM on ESPN) loss, we’ll be all knotted up at the top of the NL Central.
A guy who looked just like Carlton from “Fresh Prince of Bel-Aire” got kicked out of section 135 in the seventh inning.
Pirates (31-27) – Royals (24-33)
Win: Hughes (2-0)
Loss: Mazzaro (2-1)
Save: Hanrahan (17)