May 14, 2015; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia Phillies shortstopFreddy Galvis
(13) steals second in front of the tag attempt of Pittsburgh Pirates shortstop Jordy Mercer (10) during the third inning at Citizens Bank Park. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports
What started out looking like an encouraging midweek series in Philadelphia led into a disappointing result for the Pittsburgh Pirates.
The 37-year-old Harang permitted just five hits and a walk across eight smooth innings in his 29th career start against the Pirates, the most common opponent of his 14-year MLB career. He struck out six and induced plenty of weak contact, but didn’t appear to fool the Pittsburgh hitters too often.
Nonetheless, Harang’s performance was more than enough to hold off a Pirates team that committed a pair of early fielding errors and had a couple other mental mistakes that helped put the Phillies (13-23) ahead.
The lackluster loss meant that the Pirates (17-18) split the four-game series with the last-place team in the National League East. Although Pittsburgh is still 5-3 since a five-game losing streak to start the month, it dropped to fourth place in the NL Central race with its second consecutive defeat.
Starling Marte was one of the few Pirates to have a productive afternoon, as he stroked a pair of doubles as part of a three-hit afternoon that made up for a failed stolen-base attempt. His drive off the top of the wall in left-center field plated Josh Harrison for the game’s first run in the ninth inning, chasing reliever Ken Giles.
Pedro Alvarez knocked in Marte with an RBI groundout against Phillies closer Jonathan Papelbon, then Jung Ho Kang was hit by an 0-2 pitch to summon pinch-hitter Andrew McCutchen with a chance to tie the game. McCutchen, who otherwise had a planned day off, popped out in foul territory to end it.
Pirates starter Vance Worley was forced to labor by the light-hitting Phillies, going just four innings on 81 pitches, 46 of those for strikes. The erratic right-hander departed after allowing three runs (one earned) on eight hits, all of them singles.
Errors by middle infielders Neil Walker (first inning) and Jordy Mercer (third) didn’t help, and neither did first baseman Alvarez’s failure to cover the bag on a ground ball to second baseman Walker.
Also, a pair of offensive innings ended with runners – Harrison in the third, Marte in the fourth – thrown out trying to steal second, so the mistakes weren’t limited to the defensive side of the game.
In the positive category, Harrison rapped out three line-drive singles, raising his batting average to an even .200. On the other side of the coin, Gregory Polanco, Walker, Alvarez, Mercer, Kang and catcher Chris Stewart combined to go 0 for 19.
The Pirates return to Chicago’s Wrigley Field for the second time in three weeks when they challenge the feisty Cubs in a three-game series. Jeff Locke will start the opener against Chicago’s Kyle Hendricks, with Friday’s first pitch set for 2:20 p.m. Eastern time.