BRADENTON, Fla. (93-7 THE FAN) — James McDonald allowed just one hit over 4 shutout innings, but his teammates were shut out for the first 8 innings in a 4-2 loss to Tampa Bay at a sundrenched but chilly and windswept McKechnie Field Thursday afternoon.

McDonald allowed a leadoff single to open the game, but he picked the runner off at first base, a point of emphasis for Pirate pitchers after opponents ran roughshod on the basepaths last season.

The “bad” JMac resurfaced in the 2nd inning when he walked the first two batters, throwing 8 balls on 9 pitches, but Tampa Bay’s Jack Cust swung at the first pitch for a 4-6-3 double play.

“I said, thank you.” McDonald grinned. “It’s never good to walk two in a row. But I was happy the way I got back down, got a ground ball double play, I could have let it get away, but I didn’t.”

James McDonald Post-Game:

In the third inning, McDonald hit a batter and then a 2-base error on first baseman Brad Hawpe put runners at 2nd and 3rd with 2 outs, but McDonald got a fly ball to end the threat and his 4th inning was uneventful.

“He used all 4 of his pitches,” said manager Clint Hurdle. “His fastball was down at times, elevated with intent at times, had a better breaking ball, threw a couple of sliders, some good change-ups and he controlled the running game picking off a runner. Good day for him.”

Clint Hurdle Post-Game:

Tampa Bay righthander Alex Cobb was actually better than McDonald. He also allowed just one hit over 4 innings and he struck out Andrew McCutchen twice.

All four Tampa Bay runs were unearned off the unfortunate JeanMar Gomez. Gaby Sanchez’s low throw kept the inning alive, and then Gomez started giving up hits. The Pirates finally scored with two outs in the 9th on singles by Matt Hague and Jared Goedert and a 2-run double by DH Russell Martin.

According to Hurdle, Martin may be ready to catch by Saturday. Brandon Inge, who has also been DH-ing is closer to getting out in the field – at 3rd base, 2nd, 1st and maybe the outfield. Jeff Karstens will throw another 2-inning simulated game tomorrow (Friday).

The Pirates play the Orioles at McKechnie Field Friday night at 7:05 p.m. on Sportsradio 93-7 The Fan. Kyle McPherson is scheduled to start. Starling Marte will play center field with McCutchen getting the night off.

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