Marlins 9, Pirates 5
Sun Life Stadium, Miami, FL
The Pirates traveled to Florida riding high, having just won three out of four games against the Cincinnati Reds while climbing back to the .500 mark. Three days and three losses by a combined score of 21 to 5 later, and the Bucs (8-11) will limp back to Pittsburgh thankful that they’ll never again have to take the field at Sun Life Stadium. Pedro Alvarez tallied three hits for the Pirates, including his first home run of the season. But Scott Cousins hit a grand slam and Brett Hayes belted a three-run homer for the Marlins (11-6), who chased James McDonald early while rolling to a 9-5 victory Thursday night.
Alvarez snapped Pittsburgh’s 23-inning scoreless streak and his own homer drought in the top of the second, getting ahead in the count 2-0 and then depositing a Chris Volstad sinker into the right field seats. Unfortunately, Alvarez’s solo shot would be followed by a flurry of Florida scoring.
After retiring the Marlins in order in the first frame, McDonald loaded the bases in the second inning by walking Gaby Sanchez, allowing a single to Greg Dobbs and issuing another free pass to Mike Stanton. McDonald then tossed a first-pitch 92 MPH fastball right down the heart of the plate to Cousins, and the Marlins rookie crushed it over the right field wall for a grand slam.
Cousins’ first career home run in the majors wasn’t the end of McDonald’s second-inning terrors — the Fish again loaded the bases while tacking on another run. The next batter, Hayes, doubled to deep left-center field. While pitcher Chris Volstad’s subsequent sac bunt attempt proved ineffective, with McDonald throwing out Hayes at third base, McDonald then plunked Emilio Bonifacio on the elbow in the next at-bat to put runners on first and second.
Omar Infante ripped a first-pitch fastball to center to load the bases. Hanley Ramirez pulled a grounder to Pedro Alvarez, but the Pirates couldn’t get the double play ball as Ramirez beat out the throw at first base.
McDonald was pummeled for three more runs in the third inning. Following a Stanton walk and a Cousins double down the left field line, Hayes hammered a hanging mid-70s curveball to left to give the Marlins an 8-1 lead. McDonald exited after the inning, having labored through 71 pitches while coughing up six hits, three walks and eight earned runs.
The Bucs and Marlins traded runs in the fifth, with Pittsburgh getting one back on a John Bowker grounder that scored Alvarez and Stanton connecting off Mike Crotta for his first home run of the 2011 season.
In the sixth, the Pirates crept closer and threatened to wipe away the early deficit. Florida’s Volstad got Jose Tabata to fly out to center. But the 6-foot-8 righty then lost the strike zone, surrendering a single to Lyle Overbay and walking both Neil Walker and Garrett Jones to juice the bases.
Florida manager Edwin Rodriguez pulled Volstad, trying to get the platoon advantage by bringing in left-hander Randy Choate to face Alvarez. But Alvarez foiled that plan by singling to score Overbay. Ryan Webb entered the game for the Fish and proceeded to give up a soft single to Chris Snyder to plate Walker.
Josh Rodriguez, who recorded his first major league hit an inning earlier, was then drilled by a hard Webb slider to bring the Bucs within 9-5. Pinch-hitter Matt Diaz nearly blew the game wide-open in the next at-bat, but Hanley Ramirez spoiled the rally.
Florida’s star shortstop layed out to glove a Diaz grounder hit up the middle and flipped to Omar Infante at second base. Infante snatched to ball bare-handed and fired to first to complete the double-play.
That’s as close as the Pirates would get. While Jose Veras, Joe Beimel and Joel Hanrahan each threw an inning of scoreless relief, Florida’s ‘pen slammed the door. Webb, Mike Dunn, Clay Hensley and Leo Nunez combinined to keep the visitors off the board after the sixth inning.
Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen, who missed Wednesday’s game while visiting his ill father in a Florida hospital, returned to the lineup Thursday night. McCutchen went 0-for-5.
Marlins 9, Pirates 5