Durable Musgrove dominant vs. Reds

Righty fanned 8 over 7 scoreless innings in shutout

April 6th, 2019

PITTSBURGH -- watched and waited for more than a week as the Pirates’ starters put up zero after zero. After having his first scheduled start washed out by last weekend in Cincinnati, he was clearly ready for his turn.

Musgrove struck out eight and allowed only three hits over seven innings in the Pirates’ 2-0 win against the Reds on Friday night at PNC Park. It was Pittsburgh’s third shutout in six games this season, the fastest the Pirates have ever recorded a trio of shutouts in a season.

Musgrove’s dominant outing continued the early season success of Pittsburgh’s rotation. Pirates starters have allowed only one run over their last 30 innings while posting a 1.25 ERA overall. The Pirates’ pitching staff has now shut out the Reds for 28 consecutive innings. After one full turn through the rotation, is the only starter to allow a run.

“It fires me up. I think we all kind of feed off each other,” Musgrove said. “We’re competing in a sense of wanting to go out and top each other’s outings, but everyone’s pulling for each other. This is what we expect of each other every fifth day out there.”

On Friday, Musgrove did everything the Pirates came to expect of him last season.

Although his first year with the Bucs was bookended by injuries, he proved to be a durable presence when he was on the mound by completing six innings in 14 of his 19 starts. Friday brought more of the same, as he cruised through seven innings during a pitchers' duel with Reds starter Sonny Gray.

The right-hander pounded the strike zone with his full arsenal of pitches. Sixty-three of his 88 pitches were strikes, and he got ahead of 19 of the 24 batters he faced with a first-pitch strike.

“Ahead, aggressive, hunting outs, hunting contact,” manager Clint Hurdle said. “Then he gets eight punchouts on the other side of it because he’s making pitches that are looking like strikes out of the hand that are ending up in really good spots.”

Before Friday’s game, Musgrove and his fellow starters talked about the importance of being aggressive considering the Reds’ collective slump. He and catcher Francisco Cervelli put that plan into action.

“They’re struggling a little bit to get their hits, so we didn’t want to make it any easier by letting them work counts,” Musgrove said. “We wanted to go right at them.”

Musgrove said he didn’t feel sharp during a two-inning relief appearance last Sunday, and felt like he lacked his best fastball on Friday. But he consistently got ahead in the count then put hitters away with a mix of sliders, changeups and curveballs. He credited Cervelli for identifying his best plan of attack against the Reds' lineup.

Musgrove’s slider was his most dominant offering, as Cincinnati whiffed on 12 of the 28 that he threw on the night.

“The slider was my weapon of choice tonight. That was really good, sharper than it’s been in a while,” Musgrove said. “I think part of that’s because I didn’t have a great fastball, so I was really relying on the slider heavy -- which is something that I don’t really want to do, but when you’re out there competing, you do whatever you have to do to win. So if I had to throw 40 sliders, I would’ve thrown 40 sliders.”

All Musgrove needed to win was one run, and the Pirates finally broke through in the seventh. Gray retired 16 straight Pirates hitters between Cervelli’s two-out single in the first and the start of the seventh inning. Then Starling Marte singled to left, took second on a wild pitch and advanced to third on Cervelli’s groundout.

Marte broke for home plate on Josh Bell’s grounder and had a chance to score when Jose Peraza’s throw pulled catcher Tucker Barnhart off the plate. Marte hesitated, however, giving Barnhart time to tag him and seemingly thwarting the Bucs’ lone scoring opportunity of the night.

Their fortunes changed in a hurry, though. , the next batter, pulled a double to left off Gray and Bell hustled around to score from first to put Musgrove in line for the win.

“This team’s tough, and our pitching’s good,” Musgrove said. “Even if I don’t get the win there, I’m happy with my work. As long as we win the game on the night, it doesn’t really matter if it’s my win or not.”