Pirates use big 2nd inning to blitz Brewers
Every baseball player dreams about making his major league debut, but when that first game goes as Brewers’ right-hander Johnny Hellweg’s did on Friday, it’s called a nightmare.
The Pirates racked up seven runs in the second inning to chase Hellweg and bounce back from an early deficit to win their season-high seventh straight game, 10-3.
Starling Marte was 3 for 5 with a double, a triple and two RBI, Andrew McCutchen was 3 for 5 and hit his ninth home run of the season and Pedro Alvarez extended his hitting streak to 11 games, tying a career high, in front of a sellout crowd of 36,875 at PNC Park. It was the Pirates’ fourth straight sellout and fifth of the season.
“It was good. We just maintained the momentum we had on the road,” McCutchen said. “It was good to play at home in front of a sellout crowd. It makes it fun just to have that support behind us.”
Gerrit Cole (4-0) settled down after a rough first inning and became the first Pirates pitcher since Nick Maddox in 1907 to begin his major league career with wins in each of his first four games, according to Elias Sports Bureau.
Cole walked the leadoff batter, gave up two singles and hit Aramis Ramirez with a 96 mph pitch to start the game as the Brewers jumped out to a 3-0 lead. He then gave up just four singles over the next five scoreless innings.
The rookie right-hander didn’t have to think back too far to remind himself that one bad inning doesn’t have to make or break the ball game.
“I kind of looked back on Charlie (Morton’s) performance in Anaheim when he gave up five runs and had kind of a crazy inning, and he was able to set the tone for the rest of the game,” Cole said of the Pirates’ come-from-behind, 10-9, win in extra innings Sunday. “We kept battling and ended up getting the win out there, and that’s all I tried to do today. Whether I was going to give up three or five or six, I was just going to try to keep grinding and get as deep as I could like he did.”
The Pirates (49-30), tied with Boston for the most wins in baseball, are 19 games over .500 for the first time since 1992. St. Louis, with 48 wins, played at Oakland late Friday night.
Garrett Jones and Alvarez singled, Neil Walker hit a two-run double and Travis Snider walked to begin the pivotal second inning. The 24-year-old Hellweg didn’t get any help from shortstop Jean Segura, whose inability to field the ball allowed runs to score on more than one occasion, but after 39 pitches to 11 batters in the inning, Hellweg was done. Former Pirates pitcher Tom Gorzelanny relieved him after just 1 2⁄3 innings, and Hellweg exited with five earned runs allowed on six hits, two walks and one strikeout and an ERA of 27.00.
The Pirates hadn’t scored seven runs in an inning since totaling nine in the fourth inning against San Diego on Aug. 12, 2012.
“He had some command challenges, and it was his first game and a lot going on,” manager Clint Hurdle said of Hellweg. “We needed to be patient and just work with what was given to us. Some balls were left up. You saw the breaking ball come into play after some early action from our left-handed hitters. A couple plays that maybe were handled as well as they’ve handled them against us in the past also compounded things. But every guy just took the at-bat given to him and did the most he could to move the inning along and move the chains. We were able to do that, and before you know it, there’s a big number on the board.”
The Pirates added one run in the third and another in the sixth after a leadoff triple by Marte, who is now tied with the Brewers’ Segura and Carlos Gomez for the most triples in the majors. He scored on a double by McCutchen.
Ryan Reid pitched the final three innings and earned his first major league save. Snider left the game after taking a foul ball off his foot in the sixth inning.