The Pittsburgh Pirates have bigger things to worry about than macho posturing. The Arizona Diamondbacks clearly do not.
Although the conclusion of Saturday’s game at Chase Field was marred by a fastball to the back of Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen – apparently retribution for Arizona MVP candidate Paul Goldschmidt‘s suffering a broken hand on a high-and-tight pitch Friday – the Bucs displayed more late-game perseverance to pick up an 8-3 victory.
The win, Pittsburgh’s second in a row and fifth in seven games, mirrored Friday’s come-from-behind triumph in one big way: the offense didn’t start to click until the eighth inning.
Josh Harrison‘s solo homer in the third provided the Pirates’ lone run for much of the night, but defense and pitching got the Bucs (59-51) through seven innings in a 1-1 tie.
Travis Snider and McCutchen made sprawling outfield grabs in the third inning, starter Vance Worley continued his surprise resurgence with six high-quality innings, and reliever Jared Hughes pitched out of his own jam in the seventh, getting back-to-back strikeouts with runners in scoring position to escape.
In the eighth, Harrison (single) and Gregory Polanco (catcher’s interference) got on base ahead of McCutchen, who bounced a pitch from Brad Ziegler through the left side to put the Pirates ahead 2-1. Russell Martin followed with a high infield chopper that scored Polanco, with McCutchen zooming around to score from second after Ziegler’s throw to first struck Martin.
Up next, defensive replacement Brent Morel slammed a double to left-center to make it 5-1. Morel, who took over at third base after yet another rough fielding game from Pedro Alvarez, added a two-run single in the ninth as the Pirates piled on. Martin also tacked on another RBI in the final frame.
But the ninth was just as notable for the plunking of McCutchen by young Arizona reliever Randall Delgado. The Diamondbacks (48-63) have built a reputation for being ostentatious under manager Kirk Gibson, so the Pirates likely anticipated that something was coming after Goldschmidt was placed on the disabled list Saturday afternoon.
However, McCutchen said the way Arizona went about it – waiting for the third pitch in his fifth at-bat – could’ve gotten him seriously injured. The reigning National League MVP showed his displeasure with the method of the plunking, slamming his bat to the ground and mouthing several words in anger as he took first base.
Judging by the postgame comments from McCutchen (“I don’t forget.”) and manager Clint Hurdle (“The game takes care of itself.”), this rift between the two clubs may not be over. Nonetheless, the Pirates have greater tasks at hand.
The Bucs took over first place in the NL wild-card race after losses by San Francisco and Atlanta. Pittsburgh trails Milwaukee by 1 1/2 games for the top spot in the Central.
The Pirates will go for a series win and a 6-4 West Coast road trip Sunday afternoon when Francisco Liriano takes the mound. Arizona will counter with Trevor Cahill in the 4:10 p.m. Eastern time start.