Despite some shaky work by the bullpen, the Pirates were able to hang on this afternoon to split the four game series at Citizens Bank Park. A five-run first inning was all that was needed to out-score the Phillies.
After Garrett Jones knocked in a run to make it 1-0 in the first, Casey McGehee clobbered a three-run bomb to put up an early four-spot. Pedro Alvarez then took Kyle Kendrick deep for his 14th home run (leading all third basemen), and A.J. Burnett had a 5-0 lead before even throwing a pitch.
Unfortunately for the Bucs, Kendrick was dominant after the first, only giving up one hit from second-sixth innings. Burnett turned in another impressive start, but the Phillies started to chip into the lead. Former Bucco Erik Kratz hit a two-run home run in the second, and Placido Polanco drove in a run on a groundball that was too slow to be a double play. A.J. started the seventh, and struck out the first two batters before walking Jimmy Rollins. He was yanked for Juan Cruz who walked the first batter he faced on four pitches. Shane Victorino flew out to end the threat, and the 5-3 lead was still in tact.
GI Jones hit a towering fly ball in the top of the eighth that hit something above the wall, and bounced back on to the field. After review, it was ruled a double and he had to stay at second. The Bucs couldn’t take advantage though, stranding Jones at second.
The bottom of the eighth was a doozy. Heart Attack City for Pirates fans. Hunter Pence leads off against Jason Grilli and takes him deep to make it 5-4. Grilli plunked the next guy, and then got Ty Wigginton, another former Bucco great, to strike out. With Jim Thome, looming in the on-deck circle, Grilli served up a single and the Phillies had runners on first and second. Thome took a huge cut the first pitch he saw – a 95 MPH fastball – and absolutely crushed it down the right field line. Just foul. He fouled off another fastball, and then whiffed on a third one to strike out. But the inning was still far from over, with the NL’s leading hitter coming up next. Carlos Ruiz, who got the day off, pinch hit. Down 0-2, Ruiz fisted a popup in foul territory, and Casey McGehee made a running catch, diving two rows deep in to the stands to get out of the inning.
The Phillies got a runner to third in the ninth, but Joel Hanrahan got a flyout to end the game and earn the save. A.J. got his eighth straight win, and the offense put up five runs without any help from Cutch, who went 0-5.
Pirates (40-35) – Phillies (36-42)
Win: Burnett (9-2)
Loss: Kendrick (2-8)
Save: Hanrahan (20)