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Pirates top Mariners 4-1

The Pittsburgh Pirates used back-to-back RBI doubles by Travis Snider and Andrew McCutchen in the first inning against the Seattle Mariners Tuesday night at PNC Park to jump out to an early 2-0 lead which the Buccos never relinquished en route to a 4-1 victory in the first of a two-game interleague set.

McCutchen paced the Pirates (18-14) at the plate with a 4-for-4 day while Jeanmar Gomez (2-0) made a spot-start in place of an injured James McDonald, pitching five innings of shutout baseball to earn the victory over the Mariners’ (15-19) Aaron Harang (1-4).

Garrett Jones provided extra insurance in the eighth inning with a two-run home run over the Clemente wall in left field after Raul Ibanez cut Pittsburgh’s lead in half with a pinch-hit RBI double in the seventh off reliever Jose Contreras. But Mark Melancon and Jason Grilli worked the final two frames of the game to perfection, sealing a victory for the Pirates that ended a two-game losing skid.

Grilli’s save marked no. 13 on the season, a total that leads the major leagues.

“Grilli with a one-run lead, we know he’s capable of just going one-two-three and the game being over, he’s shown that,” McCutchen said. “But definitely, a big home run [by Jones] to give us an extra two runs on the board.”

Starling Marte led off the game with an infield-single after he tapped a ball between the pitcher and first baseman with a check-swing. Marte beat the throw, running his tally to 16-for-26 leading off games—a league-best by far.

Snider followed with a double to the left-center field gap with Marte running on the pitch, giving Marte a sufficient head start to reach home plate from first. McCutchen then doubled to left, giving Pittsburgh all the runs it would need to defeat Seattle.

McCutchen’s performance Tuesday raised his batting average to .276 on the season after it sat at just .216 earlier in the year. Both manager Clint Hurdle and McCutchen agree the star outfielder hasn’t necessarily made changes, but just stayed the course.

“His swing’s better, he’s in a better place at the plate with his balance and his rhythm,” Hurdle said. “He’s a process-focused guy so he’s probably not as caught up in the results as people think he’s going to be.”

“I’ve just been playing, that’s it, showing up every day and doing the same thing, same routine over and over,” McCutchen said. “Things are going to even out, you know, you just gotta continue to keep working hard.”

With McDonald being placed on the 15-day disabled list earlier in the afternoon, Hurdle was forced to call on Gomez to make a start. Gomez stepped up, pitching five shutout innings, allowing only two hits and two walks alongside five strikeouts over 66 pitches.

“It’s really hard because you throw already, you play catch and you do your workout,” Gomez said about being called upon at four o’clock to make a start. “But you know if the team needs me and the manager asks me, I feel ready.”

Gomez delivered a performance that manager Clint Hurdle believed the Pirates couldn’t have asked for any more out of the pitcher making a start on such short notice.

“To get that effort, we were real happy. He continues to show up and do a very professional job with whatever we ask him to do, and today he went above and beyond the call of duty,” Hurdle said. “He was excellent with the first-pitch strikes, the swing-and-miss was there when he needed it, ground-ball was there when you needed it.”

After just 66 pitches and five innings, Hurdle was content with Gomez’s performance and ready to turn the ball over to the bullpen. Hurdle cited the largest reason in that when Gomez gets around the 75-pitch area, that’s when Gomez’s struggles begin to emerge.

Justin Wilson came out of the ‘pen to work a scoreless sixth, but Tony Watson ran into trouble in the seventh which required the call to Contreras who allowed the double to Ibanez. Dustin Ackley scored from second on the play and the run was charged to Watson due to Ackley’s single to center off Watson with one out in the inning.

On the other side, Harang managed to settle down after allowing the two first-inning runs. Harang allowed just two hits in the next five innings he worked, finishing after six frames and allowing two runs on five hits and striking out six Buccos.

Charlie Furbush worked a perfect seventh for manager Eric Wedge out of the bullpen, but the Pirates finally broke through in the eighth for two runs on Jones’ home run off Carter Capps.

“It’s a big breath of fresh air,” Hurdle said about Jones’ home run. “It turned into an old-fashioned National League game.”

PiratesAlso relieving to the Pirates, despite the injury woes thus far, is the depth shown by the team so far in contending with and adapting to key contributors getting hurt.

“When someone went down in the past, we really didn’t have anybody to come up and pick up slack but we have that now, we have depth, that’s what’s been good about us,” McCutchen said. “The scary thing about it is, everyone isn’t healthy.”


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