Wednesday afternoon’s matchup between the Pittsburgh Pirates and Seattle Mariners projected to be a low-scoring, pitching-dominated ballgame, and it didn’t disappoint.
Seattle ace Felix Hernandez threw eight innings of one-run ball and catcher Jesus Montero stroked a go-ahead solo homer in the seventh off Pirates No. 1 starter A.J. Burnett, pushing the Mariners to a 2-1 win and a split of the two-game interleague series at PNC Park.
Hernandez counteracted six Pirates hits with six strikeouts, shutting them out after Andrew McCutchen’s RBI single in the bottom of the first. Tom Wilhemsen danced around a Garrett Jones two-out single in the ninth to close it out for the Mariners (16-19), who improved to 7-11 on the road.
Burnett deserved better, as he allowed only two hits and struck out nine in seven complete innings. Besides the Montero shot to center, the Mariners’ only other run came on a wild pitch with two outs in the fourth that scored Michael Saunders and tied the game.
Pittsburgh got scoreless relief innings from Vin Mazzaro (eighth) and Bryan Morris (ninth), but finished a five-game homestand at 2-3. The Pirates (18-15) will put their 8-8 road record on the line this weekend when they travel to New York for a four-game series against the Mets.
Starling Marte, who has been incredibly effective when leading off a game this year, continued that first at-bat success with a double past former Pirate Jason Bay in left field. One out later, the Pirates made it two hits in three tries against Hernandez when McCutchen knocked a single up the middle to score Marte.
Middle infielders Clint Barmes (single) and Jordy Mercer (double) had the Pirates’ only two other hits off Hernandez until the seventh, when Michael McKenry reached on a leadoff single. However, the Mariners franchise cornerstone wiggled out of the mini-jam when Pedro Alvarez bounced into a double play to erase the baserunner.
Pittsburgh generated another fleeting opportunity in the eighth when Marte reached on an infield single after two outs. With thoughts of getting the tying run in scoring position, Marte took off for second with Travis Snider at the plate. He might’ve had the bag stolen, but he stumbled and was eventually tagged out in a rundown to end the inning.
Notes: Prior to the game, the Pirates optioned infielder Josh Harrison to Triple-A Indianapolis and called up 27-year-old right-handed pitcher Duke Welker. Standing at 6-foot-7, Welker was drafted out of college in 2007 by the Pirates but has never played an MLB game. His ERA has been below 2.50 since 2011, with time spent in Double-A Altoona and Indy…Bay, still the all-time PNC Park leader in home runs and RBIs, went 0 for 3 with a walk…Announced attendance for the 12:35 p.m. game was 18,877.