Tonight, Pittsburgh was not a football or hockey town. Tonight, Pittsburgh was a baseball town.
The home crowd of 36,069 vociferously celebrated a 4-2 Pirates victory as the Bucs claimed their 30th win of the season.
Pittsburgh continued their recent transformation into an offensive juggernaut early in the game. Neil Walker singled and Garrett Jones doubled off the wall to give the Pirates a 1-0 lead just four batters into the first inning.
“Our offensive approach wasn’t where it needed to be [early in the season]” Walker noted of the Pirates struggles to put up runs. “Our pitching and our defense have bailed us out of a lot of games this year but if we make big plays and get timely hitting like we did tonight we will win more often than not.”
Pittsburgh’s offensive surge continued in the second inning when the bottom of the lineup generated some excitement.
Rod Barajas singled and advanced to second on an error by Eric Hosmer. Clint Barmes followed the Pirates catcher by batting him home with a RBI single. Barajas tip-toed the baseline with a Lynn-Swann-like grace before ultimately sliding under the tag and giving Pittsburgh a 2-0 lead.
“’Pure athleticism in its rarest form for a guy who has been around the block a couple of times,” Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said of Barajas slide. “I don’t even think he knew he had that move in him.”
Walker extended the advantage by driving in Barmes to push the Royals deficit to three runs.
After two near flawless innings, Bedard returned to human form in the third. The Pirates lefty walked Alex Gordon before surrendering a RBI double to Yuniesky Betancourt.
Kansas City added a second run when Mike Moustakas drove in Betancourt on a single to left field. Luckily for Bedard, Pittsburgh escaped further damage when Jeff Francoeur’s sharply hit ball was snagged by Alex Presley to keep the score at 3-2.
Pedro Alvarez answered for the Bucs in the bottom of the frame with a double off the center wall. Tabata then beat out an infield ground ball to give the Pirates runners on first and third.
A Tabata rundown between first and second base made way for Alvarez to advance home and put the Pirates up 4-2.
“We got our pocket picked on first,” Hurdle said. “[Tabata] stayed engaged and Alvarez made the best possible read and we were able to steal a run.”
Thirty-nine batters took the plate over the next 5 ½ innings. Only six reached first base. None advanced to scoring position.
Bedard’s night came to an end in the eighth inning when he was relieved by Jason Grilli after surrendering just two runs on five hits. The Pirates starter rebounded nicely after hemorrhaging five runs in less than four innings in a loss to Milwaukee last Saturday.
“It’s always nice to go six or seven innings” Bedard said of his bounce back. “Getting those early runs are always good. When you want to win you have to make those big plays and the little plays, so those [runs] are a confidence booster to everyone.”
Grilli and closer Joel Hanrahan managed the remaining two innings as the Pirates closed out the Royals in easy fashion.
The two squads play at PNC Park again tomorrow night. James McDonald will take the mound for Pittsburgh while Vin Mazzaro counters for the Royals. First pitch is at 7:15.