Although the Pittsburgh Pirates have been powered by pitching all year long, there’s no rule that says the offense can’t carry the day once in awhile.
That’s what happened Thursday night, as the Pirates bludgeoned the San Francisco Giants with a seven-run fifth inning on their way to a 10-5 win at AT&T Park. The convincing decision put the Pirates (75-52) at 3-1 on their West Coast road trip and kept them one game ahead of the St. Louis Cardinals for first place in the National League Central.
Jose Tabata had three hits, highlighted by a three-run double that capped the big fifth; Pedro Alvarez, Andrew McCutchen and Jordy Mercer picked up two hits each, with McCutchen also walking twice. Seven Pirates knocked in at least one run, part of a 13-hit attack.
Despite the wide final margin, the outcome was very much up in the air through four innings, as the Giants (56-71) rallied back against struggling Pirates starter Jeff Locke to tie the score. The Bucs had teed off for three runs on seven hits against San Francisco ace Matt Cain, including two long solo home runs from Garrett Jones and Jordy Mercer.
The 3-0 Pittsburgh lead dissolved because of Locke’s lack of control – the young lefty walked five and allowed four hits – but the Pirates exploded against the Giants bullpen to ease the tension considerably. Gaby Sanchez’ liner drilled Cain in the fourth, knocking the big righty out of the game, so San Francisco reliever Guillermo Moscoso set the table for the Bucs with a hit batsman and two walks.
Those free passes loaded the bases for Alvarez, who promptly ripped his second ground-rule double of the night to right-center off lefty Jose Mijares, scoring two and giving the Pirates a 5-3 edge. Sacrifice flies from Russell Martin and Sanchez followed, then consecutive singles by Mercer and Locke gave Tabata a chance to do some serious two-out damage.
Tabata obliged, hammering an 0-2 curveball into the gap in left-center that cleared the bases and arranged a smooth ride to the finish line. Jeanmar Gomez relieved Locke in the bottom of the fifth and pitched three hitless drama-free innings, a stark contrast to Locke’s continued high-wire act.
Jared Hughes took over in the eighth and got the first two outs, but allowed a two-RBI double to pinch-hitter Brandon Crawford to cut the Pirates advantage to 10-5. Manager Clint Hurdle called upon Tony Watson at that point, and the lefty struck out Nick Noonan on three pitches to end the inning.
Brett Pill earned three hits for the Giants. Buster Posey had a sac fly in the third, then Marco Scutaro’s two-run, two-out single in the fourth inspired hope among the rowdy Bay Area partisans until the Bucs broke out in the following inning.
Pittsburgh’s Charlie Morton will oppose the Giants’ Madison Bumgarner in the second of four games between the two clubs. First pitch is scheduled for 10:15 Eastern time from AT&T Park.