Throughout the course of the past month, the only way the Pittsburgh Pirates haven’t given a game away was by closer Joel Hanrahan blowing a save; however that almost happened on Saturday afternoon.
The Pirates led then Chicago Cubs 6-1 at one point but had to hold their breath and cross their fingers and toes, hoping “The Hammer,” could find the strike zone in the ninth inning. Luckily he eventually did, striking out Dave Sappelt with the bases loaded to end not only the game, but the Bucs’ seven-game losing streak as the Pirates barely held on to beat the Cubs 7-6.
Hanrahan came on with a 7-4 lead, but allowed a pair of hits to go along with three walks as the Cubs made things very interesting. It’s somewhat understandable that Hanrahan would struggle, considering he hasn’t had a save opportunity for close to a month now, but he had no clue where his pitches were going as the Bucs had to sweat this one out. Pirates’ manager stuck with his closer as he nearly walked in the tying run, as Hurdle just chewed his gum while his closer imploded, but luckily Hanrahan found enough strikes for the Pirates to escape with a win.
Wandy Rodriguez had another solid start for the Bucs, throwing six innings, allowing nine hits and only one earned run.
For a change though the Pirates bats gave Rodriguez plenty of run support as the Bucs scored six times in the first four innings, beginning with a Garrett Jones sacrifice fly in the first to make it 1-0.
Rod Barajas singled in Pedro Alvarez in the second and Andrew McCutchen crushed a solo homer in the third to give Rodriguez a three-run cushion.
The Cubs cut it to 3-1 in the third on an Anthony Rizzo double but the Pirates’ offense exploded for three more in the fourth, which is a big inning these days. Starling Marte tripled in Clint Barmes to make it 4-1 and came around to score on an RBI single off the bat of Travis Snider. Jones helped make it 6-1 with an RBI double that plated Snider.
Chicago got two back in the fifth, adding a pair of unearned runs after a throwing error on Rodriguez, but Barmes homered in the top of the seventh to make it 7-3.
Jason Grilli continued his struggles, allowing a run in the eighth on a single by Luis Valbeuena, setting up the stage for Hanrahan’s near collapse.
However while it wasn’t pretty, the Pirates got the monkey off their back with a much needed win. They now have 18 games left to put something together.
Winning Pitcher: Wandy Rodriguez (11-13)
Losing Pitcher: Jason Berken (0-1)
Save: Joel Hanrahan (35)
Home Runs: Barmes (7), McCutchen (28)
Up Next: Sunday, September 16 at 2:20 p.m. at Chicago Cubs
Probable Starters: Jeff Locke (0-1, 4.11 ERA) at Chris Volstad (3-10, 5.99)