The patient, powerful Red Sox lineup rolled into Pittsburgh and made Paul Maholm work on Friday night, pushing the lefty’s pitch count into the triple-digits and breaking into the Bucs’ bullpen by the sixth inning. But Boston’s best-in-the-majors offense scraped just one run off Maholm and the Pirates’ pen quelled Adrian Gonzalez and David Ortiz in the late innings, preserving a 3-1 win in front of 39,330 fans, the third-largest crowd in PNC Park history.
Chase d’Arnaud, making his major league debut, notched an RBI and later tripled while Jose Tabata and Lyle Overbay also drove in runs for the Bucs, who improved to 38-37 on the season. By downing Boston, the Pirates have a winning record at the latest point in the season since August 1997.
Even after failing to make Maholm pay for all of the base runners he allowed, the Red Sox had chances to bust the game open with runners in scoring position against Pittsburgh’s ‘pen in the seventh and eighth innings. But Tony Watson, Daniel McCutchen and Jose Veras took down some of the best bats in the majors as Pirates relievers combined to fire 3.2 scoreless innings.
“They’re [Boston] probably just out playing another team tonight,” Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. “But there are some guys in our dugout that it wasn’t just another game for. You’d like to think it would be, and they’ll probably tell you it was, but it was a little different on our side.”
The Red Sox (44-31) struck in the first, forcing Maholm (4-8) to throw 25 pitches in the inning. Jacoby Ellsbury drew a leadoff walk, advanced to third base on a single to right field by Gonzalez and then scored on a Kevin Youkilis ground out.
That’s the only run Boston would manage against Maholm, however, despite forcing him into deep counts and putting runners in scoring position in the third and fifth innings.
Maholm retired the first two hitters in the third, but Gonzalez and Dustin Pedroia hit back-to-back singles and Youkilis walked. With the bases loaded, Darnell McDonald grounded out to third base.
In the fifth, Maholm again got two quick outs but then hit Gonzalez with a curveball and walked Youkilis on four straight pitches. McDonald had a second chance to do damage. He nearly did, driving a middle-of-the-plate fastball deep to center field, but Andrew McCutchen ran it down at the warning track.
With one out in the sixth and Jason Varitek on first base following a single, Chris Resop relieved Maholm. Varitek ran on a 3-2 pitch and was doubled up when Marco Scutaro lined out to Ronny Cedeno at shortstop.
Maholm lasted 5.1 innings, allowing six hits and three walks. He threw just 54 of his 103 pitches for strikes.
“Paul did a very professional job of working through traffic in the five-plus innings that he was out there,” Hurdle said. “The strike zone…I think there were some pitches that he wasn’t getting that got him underneath counts and made him throw a lot more pitches. He had to earn every strike he got out there tonight.”
The command wasn’t perfect, not one pitch was great. But you go out there and you battle. The bullpen picked me up big,” Maholm said. “It was kind of an overall scrappy with for us.”
Red Sox starter Jon Lester (9-4) breezed through the first two innings, retiring the Pirates in order. But the Bucs loaded the bases and pushed home two runs in the third, mimicking Boston’s patient approach by forcing Lester to toss 22 pitches in the frame.
Cedeno led off with a bunt single. Mike McKenry followed with a double to put runners on second and third on a fly ball that right fielder Mike Cameron misplayed, taking a step backward and then charging and diving as the ball skipped by him. Maholm worked a 3-2 count and took a fastball off the outside corner, loading the bases with no outs.
Tabata scorched a ground ball down the third base line that Youkilis tried to back hand, but the ball deflected off his glove and into foul territory, scoring Cedeno. The Bucs took the lead on d’Arnaud’s first career RBI, a 6-3 double play groundout that plated McKenry.
Lester plunked McCutchen to put runners on the corners, but he recovered to strike out Neil Walker swinging on a 3-2 fastball.
The Pirates continued to run up Lester’s pitch count after that, though they left runners on the corners in the fourth when McKenry grounded into an inning-ending double play and stranded d’Arnaud, who tripled to deep left field for his first big league hit with two outs in the fifth, when McCutchen struck out swinging.
In the sixth, however, the Pirates tacked on an insurance run. Walker roped a line drive that Youkilis lunged at, but the ball took a wicked hop off the third baseman’s glove for a single.
The next batter, Matt Diaz, fell behind 0-and-2 and the hit a grounder to third for what should have been a 5-4-3 double play. Youkilis booted it instead, putting runners at first and third. Overbay then pulled a pitch past Gonzalez at first to make it 3-1 Pirates.
Lester exited after six innings, giving up three runs (two earned) while striking out five and walking one batter.
Boston’s offense, meanwhile, continued to put runners on and then leave them high and dry. Watson allowed a single to pinch-hitter Josh Reddick and walked Pedroia in the seventh inning. With one out, Watson got Gonzalez to pop out to McKenry on a slider that painted the outside corner.
Hurdle then called on Daniel McCutchen, who struck out Youkilis swinging. Pirates fans jeered the Greek God of Walks with chants of “Yoooouk!” as he threw his helmet aside in disgust.
Veras served up singles to McDonald and J.D. Drew, who pinch-hit for Cameron, to begin the eighth inning. Jason Varitek dropped a sac bunt to advance the runners into scoring position. Veras then caught Marco Scutaro looking on a curveball over the plate.
That brought up pinch-hitter David Ortiz with a chance to tie the game or take the lead with one swing.
“I’m not a big fan of pitching around guys,” Hurdle said. “I went out to the mound to take Jose’s temperature and ask him, ‘what’s your plan?’ He gave me a plan and I said, ‘I’m good with that. Let’s go do it.'”
Veras brought his slow stuff against Big Papi, missing with a splitter for ball one and then getting a pair of called strikes with another splitter and a curveball. With torrential rain falling, Ortiz stepped out of the box and wiped off his bat with a towel.
Ortiz fouled off three straight breaking balls, and the rain subsided. Veras then reared back, found 94 MPH on the gun and got the slugger to ground out to Cedeno, who was playing up the middle with the shift on. The crowd erupted, waving their white give-away T-shirts like Terrible Towels.
“It was a good plan pitching backwards,” Veras said. “Soft early, and hard late.”
Joel Hanrahan finished off another scoreless night for the Pirates’ pen, retiring Ellsbury, Pedroia and Gonzalez in order in the ninth. Hanrahan hasn’t given up a hit since June 4, a stretch of 7.2 innings.
“We’re gaining experience every day playing in front of a home crowd and playing in front of good teams like this,” Hurdle said. “I think there are a lot of guys who got a chance to grow up a little bit today.”
“We’re right in the thick of it,” Maholm said. “We don’t need to worry about anything else except winning series, and see where we’re at.”
Chase d’Arnaud made his major league debut against the Red Sox on Friday night, playing third base while batting out of the two-spot in the lineup. The Pirates’ fourth-round pick out of Pepperdine in the 2008 draft hit .280/.347/.418 at Triple-A Indianapolis while seeing time at shortstop, second base and the hot corner.
“I feel comfortable there [at third],” d’Arnaud said. “I played there my first and second year of college and I played there three games prior to getting called up. Third base is just a position that I can be thrown at…it’s kind of like home.”
Considering that Pedro Alvarez (right quadriceps) and Steve Pearce (right calf) are on the disabled list and Brandon Wood is hitting just .231/.284/.324 as a Pirate, d’Arnaud figures to see regular playing time at third. Long-term, the 24-year-old d’Arnaud could challenge Ronny Cedeno (batting .232/.289/.326) at shortstop.
…AND MAKES AN IMPACT
d’Arnaud went 1-for-3 at the plate, getting his first RBI on a ground out in the third inning and whacking a triple to left field in the fifth. d’Arnaud became the first Pirate to get a triple on his first big league hit since Chance Sanford in 1998.
“I’ll probly start him again tomorrow,” Hurdle said while grinning. “It had to be a very exciting day for him. We win a ball game in front of a packed house, and I think his dad was here. A triple in his first game — he’s already tied [Chris Snyder
“Good for Chase. That’s probably a lifelong dream right there since you’re six and in the backyard to play against the big leaguers, against the Red Sox in front of a packed Friday night crowd. It was special.”
“Definitely a memorable night,” d’Arnaud said, with the game’s lineup card and the ball from his first big league hit sitting in his locker. “The fans were great and I really felt the energy tonight. Getting a win against the Red Sox in my first game is definitely a good feeling.”
d’Arnaud did his best to block out the nearly 80,000 eyeballs fixed on him.
“I was just trying to keep my head down the entire time,” d’Arnaud continued. “It wasn’t until later in the game that I really became cognizant of what was going on around me. I was just trying to keep my eyes on the field, and that was the best advice that I could have taken before the game today.”
And that game ball?
“I’ll be giving that to pops,” d’Arnaud said.
MORE ROSTER MOVES TO COME
The Pirates are expected to recall outfielder Alex Presley from Triple-A Indianapolis and send down infielder Pedro Ciriaco prior to Tuesday’s interleague series against the Toronto Blue Jays. While Presley is supposed to DH during the Toronto series, he could play a prominent role in the Pirates’ quest to improve an offense that ranks 14th in the National League in runs scored.
The lefty-swinging Presley is hitting .338/.389/.507 with the Indians this season, compared to the .259/.328/.401 average in the International League. He also has 18 stolen bases in 21 attempts. Presley, 25, could work his way into the right field mix, with either Garrett Jones or Lyle Overbay getting the bulk of the playing time at first base.
RHP Brad Lincoln, the fourth overall pick in the 2006 draft, is expected to make a spot-start for the Pirates on July 2 during a double-header with the Washington Nationals. Lincoln has a 3.82 ERA and a 66-to-14 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 77.2 innings pitched in Triple-A this year. If the Pirates decide to keep Presley on the roster, a reliever (such as Tim Wood) could be optioned to make room for Lincoln.
After Lincoln’s start, the Bucs figure to recall an infielder from Indy. Josh Harrison, who was sent to Triple-A to make way for d’Arnaud, will be eligible to return to the majors on July 3.
BUCS DFA THOMPSON
To make room for d’Arnaud on the 40-man roster, the Pirates designated LHP Aaron Thompson for assignment. The 24-year-old left-hander, who previously pitched in the minors for Florida and Washington, has a 4.97 ERA and a 43-to-18 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 67 innings pitched at Double-A Altoona this season.
RHP Tim Wakefield (4-2, 4.26 ERA) takes on RHP Jeff Karstens (4-4, 2.54) Saturday night. Wakefield, born during the Lyndon Johnson administration, was originally drafted by the Bucs as a first baseman in the eighth round of the 1988 draft. He converted to pitching in 1989 and spent the 1992 and 1993 seasons in Pittsburgh. In 1994, he posted a 5.84 ERA at Triple-A Buffalo (then a Pittsburgh affiliate) while leading the league in walks, home runs allowed and losses. The Pirates released Wakefield in April of 1995, and the 44-year-old knuckleballer has been in Boston ever since.