BRADENTON, Fla. (93-7 The Fan) — The Pirates’ dormant offense finally came alive in the late innings and they walked off McKechnie Field with a 4-3 win over the Orioles, their third straight Grapefruit League win.
The Bucs did next-to-nothing against Orioles starter Jake Arrieta — who allowed two hits with five strikeouts over four innings — but they battered the Baltimore bullpen.
Josh Harrison doubled home Alex Presley who had been hit by a pitch in the seventh inning. Brad Hawpe hit a lefty-off-lefty home run versus Daniel Schlereth in the eight, then Presley and Harrison teamed up again in the ninth.
Presley singled pinch-runner Jordy Mercer to third, Harrison scored Mercer and pushed Presley to third base on a hit-and-run and with the score tied, Presley beat the throw to the plate on Carlos Paulino’s fielder’s choice.
- Listen to Jim Colony’s interview with Josh Harrison:
“We just kept fighting and scratching and we came up in some situations where we got the job done,” Harrison said.
And he avoided the dreaded spring training extra-inning game.
“Oh it was nice,” Harrison said. “You always want to avoid extra innings.”
As for the pitching, Jeff Locke breezed through the first inning, but ran into trouble in the second when he allowed three straight singles and again in the third when Lew Ford homered and a single and double puts two runners in scoring position.
Locke got out of that with two strikeouts, but when Baltimore put runners at first and third again in the fourth inning, he gave way to Phil Irwin, who escaped Locke’s jam and Irwin — a starter by trade — ended up going 3.2 innings with seven strikeouts.
Three-point-one innings, eight hits and a walk is far from ideal, but Locke wasn’t discouraged.
“Everything felt good today,” he said. “I went about my routine, felt I attacked hitters pretty well, obviously left some balls up sometimes you get away with it — sometimes you don’t.”
- Listen to Jim Colony’s interview with Jeff Locke:
Locke says high fastballs cost him.
“When it was in it was good, when it was down it was good,” Locke said. “The one right about here (putting his hand across letters) that’s the one that hurts you the most.”
Manager Clint Hurdle accentuated the positive.
“He got his work in, had to pitch out of the stretch a lot and pitched behind in the count a lot and was able to walk away with us still in the game,” Hurdle said.
Hurdle was extremely impressed with Irwin.
“His stuff was what we needed and we were able to stretch him out,” Hurdle said. “Fastball had downhill plane, it was sharp, the breaking ball had late bite, good depth.”
- More news from the day:
The Pirates picked off yet another base-runner when Locke caught Lew Ford leaving first base early, calmly stepping off the rubber and throwing to Neil Walker for the tag at second. James McDonald and A.J. Burnett also picked off runners within the last five days.
- Listen to Jim Colony’s interview with Clint Hurdle:
“It’s shown them they’re reaping some of the benefits of the hard work they’re putting in,” Hurdle said. “It’s been different guys and different ways they’re doing it.”
Hurdle chose to not use a DH, so Locke batted against Arrieta and grounded sharply to short, which was actually one of the harder-hit balls against the Orioles righthander.
Brandon Inge pinch-hit in the eighth inning after not getting any fielding chances at third base against the Twins Sunday.
“I think they were afraid of me,” Inge said.
Steelers coach Mike Tomlin, tight ends coach James Daniel and General Manager Kevin Colbert attended the game as Hurdle’s guests.
“I’ve been to Steelers practices, skate-arounds with the Penguins;” Hurdle said. “We’re like-minded guys and we share thoughts. Although it’s different sports there are a lot of dots that are connected especially with (player) relationships.”
Jeff Karstens threw a trouble-free bullpen session Monday and says he will pitch in a minor league game Wednesday, probably in the 50-pitch range.