PITTSBURGH (KDKA/AP) – The Pirates took a big step forward, beating the Boston Red Sox, 3-1.
The Bucs (38-37) picked up their third consecutive win to climb above .500.
Paul Maholm (4-8) allowed just one run and six hits over five and 1-3 innings pitched in front of a nearly sold-out crowd Friday night at PNC Park.
Jose Tabata and Lyle Overbay each had two hits and an RBI for the Pirates.
Boston starter Jon Lester (9-4) pitched six solid innings but failed to become the AL’s first 10-game winner, giving up three runs, two earned, while striking out five and walking one.
Adrian Gonzalez had two hits to bump his major league-leading average to .360, but the Red Sox left 11 men on base while dropping their third straight to a National League team.
The Pirates, in the midst of their best start in a dozen years, added a little quality to their quantity by shutting down baseball’s most potent offense, at least for a night.
Pittsburgh improved to 38-37 thanks in large part to another solid performance from the bullpen, which shut out the Red Sox over the final 3 2-3 innings.
Not that the Red Sox didn’t have their chances, none better than the eighth inning when they put runners on second and third with one out. Reliever Jose Veras struck out Marco Scutaro then got pinch-hitter David Ortiz to ground out to short to end the inning.
Boston’s second visit to Pittsburgh in over a century provided a fair share of electricity thanks to the thousands of Red Sox fans who were part of the third-largest crowd in PNC Park history. A “Let’s Go Red Sox” chant broke out on the game’s very first pitch, giving it a very Fenway Park-like feel.
The Pirates, however, were hardly pushovers.
Overbay, who sat out the three-game series against Baltimore earlier in the week so he could spend more time in the batting cage to work his way out of a prolonged slump, had two crisp hits while Tabata continued his strong play as the leadoff hitter.
Maholm struggled with his command, needing 103 pitches – including just 54 strikes – to get through 5 1-3 innings, but he managed to keep baseball’s top offense off the scoreboard.
Whenever Maholm found himself in trouble, he got out of it by dominating Boston’s Darnell McDonald. The left fielder went hitless in three at-bats against Maholm, stranding six men on base in the process.
The NL venue forced Ortiz to watch most of the game from the bench. Boston manager Terry Francona hinted he may consider playing Ortiz at first and send Gonzalez to right field but opted not to take a chance on Friday because Francona didn’t want to put any more stress on Boston’s already suspect defense.
Instead Mike Cameron got the start in right, but the veteran looked very much like the rookie on a flyball from Mike McKenry in the second. Cameron charged in to make the catch but misjudged the flight and the ball skipped past him, allowing the Pirates to get runners on second and third with no outs.
The miscue, officially ruled a double, helped the Pirates take a 2-1 lead.
Boston handed Pittsburgh an insurance run in the sixth after third baseman Kevin Youkilis mishandled a grounder by Matt Diaz, allowing Neil Walker to race from first to third. Overbay brought him with a single to right.