PITTSBURGH (93-7 The FAN) — The Pirates 4-2 victory against Washington Wednesday night is most impressive when looking at how the game started.
After a five-pitch first inning for starting pitcher Erik Bedard, he was pulled from the game before recording an out in the second because of back spasms. In turn, the bullpen was forced to finish out the final eight innings.
They did so in impressive form.
Brad Lincoln pitched through the fourth, followed by two innings from Jared Hughes and innings from Juan Cruz, Jason Grilli and Joel Hanrahan, who recorded his sixth save just one night after blowing an opportunity.
Each pitcher out of the bullpen allowed just one hit. Lincoln and Cruz allowed one run each. Only Cruz’s was earned.
“We needed all the length we could get tonight,” Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. “Lincoln and Hughes were big keys in that ballgame so we could get to Cruz and Grilli and Hanrahan — very efficient with their pitches.
Hurdle added he was impressed with the way Lincoln was able to come from sitting in the bullpen to pitching three innings of one-hit, one-run baseball with four strikeouts.
Lincoln has been forced into several games early this season to relieve a starter. He said he’s getting used to the unpredictable nature of the job.
“It was actually good because I had no time to think about getting in the game,” Lincoln said. “You go in there and you give ‘em what you got. That’s what I did (Wednesday night).”
After relieving Bedard, Lincoln struck out swinging but reached base. He ended up scoring the game’s first run in the third when Neil Walker singled to right with men on first and third.
Andrew McCutchen followed with another single to right for a 2-0 lead, and two batters later Casey McGehee drove in McCutchen on an infield single.
Washington answered in the top of the fourth, as Xavier Nady singled to right, scoring Bryce Harper. Chad Tracy hit a pinch hit sacrifice fly off Juan Cruz in the seventh — his first run surrendered this season — and the Pirates lead was cut to one, 3-2.
Both Cruz in the seventh and Grilli in the eighth worked their way out of jams. Grilli had the bases loaded with just one out and struck out Danny Espinosa and Rick Ankiel to preserve the one-run lead.
“We pitched ourselves into some tight corners tonight, and they were able to get out of them,” Hurdle said. “Cruz was able to get out. Obviously Grilli, (you can’t get) much deeper than he was, got a couple punch outs.”
Pittsburgh scored an insurance run in the bottom of the eighth, as McCutchen belted a home run to left field — his second in as many nights — and Hanrahan came on to close it out in the ninth.
“It was nice to be able to give Joel a little bit of insurance,” McCutchen said. “It was good to get that one extra run so he could operate a little bit.”