TORONTO — With their low-wattage offense, the Pirates can’t afford to make many missteps on the bases.
On Wednesday, they made a lot — one runner was thrown out at home, another was caught in a rundown between second and third, another was caught at first base on a steal attempt gone wrong.
The Toronto Blue Jays also made costly baserunning blunders. But they overcame them with a solo homer in the sixth inning and some slap-and-dash in the seventh to pull out a 2-1 victory.
The Pirates collected far fewer hits (four, all singles) than strikeouts (10) against right-hander Brandon Morrow and two relievers.
“We’re gonna have to push the envelope with our offense,” Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. “But we’ve gotta be smart with our signs and taking reads on throws. Those are the ones that are hard to swallow when you don’t do them properly.
“We made bad decision on the bases tonight. It’s hard to say it costs you a game. It does make it harder to win.”
Going into the game, the Blue Jays ranked third in the American League with 91 home runs. The night before, they launched four balls over the wall at Rogers Centre.
“They’re a big-swing team,” Hurdle said before the game. “They’re going to hit homers wherever they go.”
In 14 interleague games this year, the Pirates have been out-homered, 15-4. They were touched again last night, when lefty hitter Eric Thames smacked his first career homer in the sixth inning off left-hander Paul Maholm (4-9). Maholm allowed two earned runs and nine hits in seven innings.
“He had a great at-bat, I left one up, I know he has power, so congrats on the first homer,” Maholm said. “Those are going to happen.”
Without a legitimate slugger in their lineup, the Pirates must be aggressive on the basepaths. But it was surprising seeing the Blue Jays try to do that, too. In the first inning, an unwise decision cost Toronto a run.
Leadoff hitter Yunel Escobar singled to center but tried to stretch it into a double and was thrown out by Andrew McCutchen. With two outs, Jose Bautista walked and Adam Lind hit what could have been an RBI single to center. Instead, it was an empty hit.
The Pirates scored a run in the fifth inning against Morrow (4-4). But two failed baserunning gambits proved costly.
Neil Walker walked, then went to third when Lyle Overbay stroked a single to right field.
Matt Diaz hit a high-chopper to the left side, and Walker broke for home on contact.
Bautista, playing third base for just the second time this season, snagged the ball and fired to the plate. Walker slid but stopped short of the batter’s box and was an easy out.
Ronny Cedeno singled to center, scoring Overbay. But when first baseman Lind cut off the throw, Diaz got caught in a rundown.
In the eighth, the Pirates had Garrett Jones on first base and McCutchen batting with two outs. Jones broke for second on a 2-2 pitch but stumbled and tried to retreat to first. He was thrown out by catcher Jose Molina.
“We just flashed a no-run sign, so he just flat missed a sign there,” Hurdle said.
With the game tied, 1-1, in the seventh inning, former Pirate Rajai Davis bounced a ground-rule double over the center-field wall. It was a tough break for the speedy Davis, who was halfway to third base when the ball bounced over the wall.
Escobar grounded a one-out double to left-center, and Davis scored with ease.