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Insider Only Opening Series Wrapup Report: Pirates take 2 of 3 from Phillies with back-to-back walkoff wins

Pittsburgh 5 – Philadelphia 4

Win: Joel Hanrahan (1-0)
Loss: David Herndon
Game Summary: The Pittsburgh Pirates (2-1) took two of three from the Philadelphia Phillies (1-2) in their season opening series, knocking off the Phillies in walk-off fashion for the second straight game on Sunday afternoon.

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Andrew McCutchen singled home pinch runner Josh Harrison with two outs and a full count, lifting the Pirates in the ninth inning to a 5-4 victory over the Phillies at PNC Park.
McCutchen went 3-for-4, driving a pitch to the center-field wall off reliever David Herndon (0-1) for the walk-off win.
Pirates Starter James McDonald was efficient, giving up two runs and four hits in six innings pitched, while striking out three and walking two. For the third straight game the Pirates got strong starting pitching but Hunter Pence was a thorn in McDonald’s side. Pence hit an RBI double in the first inning, then belted a solo home run to deep left-center off a fastball from McDonald, giving the Phillies a 2-0 lead in the 4th.
Pedro Alvarez homered in the 5th and McDonald exited the game after the 6th inning with the Phillies leading 2-1 and Philadelphia increased their lead to 4-1 in the top of the 7th on a two-run single from Juan Pierre off Jared Hughes.
The Pirates though battled back in the 7th inning when Casey McGehee doubled to deep right scoring Alvarez and Alex Presley singled to right, scoring McGehee to cut Philadelphia’s lead to 4-3. Presley had a strong series, going 4-for-13 with 2 RBI’s and 2 stolen bases.
In the bottom of the eighth pinch hitting for Pedro Alvarez, Matt Hague singled to right, collecting his first Major League hit and driving in Andrew McCutchen to tie the game at 4-4.
Pittsburgh outhit Philadelphia, 11-5. The team travels to the west coast for a nine game road trip, starting on Tuesday for a three game set against the LA Dodgers. Kevin Correia will take the mound against Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw, the 2011 Cy Young winner.
TIDBITS
— Manager Clint Hurdle played the “us against the word” card in praising his ballclub in taking two of three games from the Phillies. “I do know our guys like to play and I do know they don’t get caught up in numbers, or on paper, because on paper they {Philadelphia Phillies} might have a better team then us, ” Hurdle said. “They definitely have a larger payroll than us but what we hold onto everyday is that we get to go play the game. Our guys love matching up and I do think there is something to be said for our guys still holding onto that. Not too many people believe in us…..but that mentality of us against the world, I think that works for these guys. I thought the resiliency showed up big time {for us}, ” Hurdle said.
Pedro Alvarez (.167 – 1 HR – 1 RBI) was 1-for-3 with 2 runs scored, a walk and the highlight of his day was when he crushed a 2-1 changeup from Worley for his first home run of the season. “It felt good to put a pretty good swing and hit a solid ball, ” Alvarez said. “The fact that it was a home run is a plus. [I’m} Just trying to put good swings and make good contact, ” Alvarez said. “I’m not focusing on hitting home runs or anything like that.“ Hurdle felt the homer is a breath of fresh air for Alvarez. “I don’t think there’s any doubt, probably was a breath of fresh air [for him],” Hurdle said on Alvarez belting his first homer of the season. “I think everybody felt better for him. Everybody is pulling for him. He knows it, ” Hurdle said. What also might help Alvarez mentally was that he was involved offensively on the base pads. He scored two runs, and in the seventh inning on a dropped third strike, Alvarez ran it out coming in safely at first base. Alvarez would later score that inning on a Casey McGehee double to deep right. “There’s many times people don’t run those balls out,” Hurdle said. “{It} speaks to Pedro’s awareness.”
— Hurdle on James McDonald who had an official line of (6IP – 4H – 2ER – 3SO – 2BB): “James gave us a very good start but everybody picked us up, everybody just kept chipping away and chipping away. We know that we’ve go to play that gritty style of baseball to win games.” McDonald threw 51 strikes on 82 pitches, including 11 first strike pitches (23 batters).
Matt Hague (.250 – 1 RBI) continues to appear to be a player manager Clint Hurdle believes in and sources say Hurdle pushed for Hague to be on the opening day roster. Hurdle put Hague in the No. 5 spot in the lineup on Saturday night and turned to him in the eighth inning off the bench where Hague delivered a 2-out pinch hit RBI single to tie the game at 4-4. “I just think he’s at the point where he can give us that good at-bat,” Hurdle said of Hague. “He’s not afraid to hit with two strikes and he’s not afraid to take a pitch early in the count. He’s not afraid to take a bad swing, and forget all about it on the next swing.”
— Pirates closer Joel Hanrahan pitched a perfect ninth inning giving the Pirates an opportunity to win the game in bottom of the ninth, yet the Phillies didn’t go with the same strategy opting not to use Jonathan Papelbon.
Evan Meek took baby steps on Sunday with a 1-2-3 eighth inning. His stuff wasn’t great but he got the job done. Meek struck out Hunter Pence to start the inning, got Polanco to line out to left and Ty Wigginton flied out to center for the third out. Meek threw 17 pitches, 11 for strikes.
Andrew McCutchen (.364 – 1 RBI – 2 SB) had a big day, going 3-for-4 with an walkoff RBI, run scored, walk, and a stolen base, his second of the season.
— The Pirates had four 2-out RBI’s in the win (Casey McGehee, Alex Presley, Matt Hague, Andrew McCutchen). McGehee (.333 – 1 RBI) was big down the stretch with two doubles, going 2-for-2 with 2 doubles, 1 RBI and a run scored.

SERIES WRAPUP

1. STARTING ROTATION: The starting rotation gave the Pirates an opportunity to win all three games, getting impressive starts from Erik Bedard, Jeff Karstens and James McDonald. Bedard in the season opener 1-0 loss, went seven innings and allowed one run and six hits with one walk and four strikeouts. He threw 58 of his 81 pitches for strikes and first-pitch strikes to 21 of the 26 batters he faced. In Saturday’s 2-1 walkoff win, Jeff Karstens went six innings, allowing 5 hits and 1 run, receiving a no decision. James McDonald in Sunday’s 5-4 walkoff win, pitched six innings, allowing 4 hits and 2 earned runs.
2. GUTSY BASEBALL: It took the Pirates 15 innings and 50 batters to score their first run of the season but the message coming out of the clubhouse this weekend is ”gutsy baseball”. “We played gutsy baseball, ” manager Clint Hurdle said on Saturday. The type of gutsy baseball such as Alex Presley beating out an infield single to win the game like he did Saturday night, is something the Pirates feel might be their identify and in a lineup that lacks legitimate pop, it’s hard to argue with that. “That’s kind of our identity,” outfielder Alex Presley said following his walkoff game winning hit on Saturday. “It doesn’t always have to be pretty, but we do what we can to win.” Being aggressive on the basepads is also going to be a key to the Pirates putting up runs this season. Through three games, Andrew McCutchen and Alex Presley have each swiped two bases, while Jose Tabata has a stolen base, giving the Pirates five through three games.

About The Author

William DePaoli

TIOPS Insider

William DePaoli is the President/Founder of Inside Pittsburgh Sports LLC and can be reached at wdepaoli@insidepittsburghsports.com

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