After losing six of eight to fall a season-worst eight games below .500, the Pittsburgh Pirates could’ve used a routine victory to get back on track.
Well, they got the victory at least.
Despite another flop by a starting pitcher, the Pirates hit their way out of trouble Wednesday night against the Baltimore Orioles, prevailing 9-8 on the same night as the 35th anniversary celebration for the 1979 World Series-winning team.
Much like that championship series, which saw Pittsburgh overcome a three-games-to-one hole to down Baltimore, the final matchup of this year’s interleague battle shifted back and forth multiple times.
The Pirates (19-26) leaped to a 4-0 advantage in the first inning on Andrew McCutchen‘s RBI double, Starling Marte‘s two-run triple and Ike Davis‘ single through a drawn-in infield. That trio piled up three hits apiece on the extended evening.
But starter Wandy Rodriguez gave it all back and then some in the second. Nelson Cruz got the Orioles (23-21) started with a solo home run, his second in two nights, followed by RBIs from Nick Markakis, Manny Machado and Chris Davis to tie the game at 4.
Rodriguez also committed a throwing error to aid the Baltimore flurry, and then luck turned against him when Cruz’ bases-loaded grounder struck third base and bounced over Pedro Alvarez‘ head, making it 6-4 Orioles.
Unfazed by the unexpected turn of events, the Bucs plated four more runs in the bottom of the inning. Neil Walker and Alvarez each drove in a run to pull Pittsburgh even, then Davis pushed the Pirates back ahead with his second RBI hit of the first two frames, which took nearly 90 minutes to complete.
Vin Mazzaro pitched brilliantly in relief to keep the home team ahead 8-6 through six innings. Mazzaro, who was designated for assignment in March, threw 3 1/3 hitless innings to restore sanity – and a decent pace – to the ballgame. However, Justin Wilson and Bryan Morris teamed up to give the lead away in the seventh, with former Pirate Steve Pearce driving in the tying run.
Right fielder Josh Harrison threw out J.J. Hardy attempting to score on Pearce’s opposite-field single, a play that loomed larger in the bottom of the seventh. Marte led off with a perfect bunt hit, then Davis moved him to third with a single to left. Jordy Mercer popped up for the first out, but Tony Sanchez came through with a liner to right that scored the deciding run.
The Pirates open a four-game series against Washington on Thursday night at PNC Park.