Pirates stay hot at home, take series vs. D-backs
PITTSBURGH -- A night after the Pirates and D-backs went back and forth for 15 innings and more than five hours, left-hander J.A. Happ gave the Bucs the quick and efficient start they needed. Happ tossed six scoreless innings, and the Pirates continued their season-long dominance along the Allegheny River with a 4-1 win over the D-backs on Wednesday night at PNC Park.
Like Tuesday night's 9-8 win, the Pirates' series-clinching victory showcased the depth of their roster. Acquired before the non-waiver Trade Deadline to help the Pirates weather A.J. Burnett's injury, Happ stepped up to help out a tired bullpen and silence the NL's highest-scoring offense.
"It's always good when everybody can contribute," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "No one wants to be the weakest link. Everybody wants to get something done. In J.A.'s case again, if you watched this guy pitch in the first half, this shouldn't surprise you."
Making his third start for the Bucs, Happ allowed only two hits and two walks while striking out three. D-backs lefty Robbie Ray took the loss as the Pirates rallied for three runs off him in the second inning.
"He was just keeping us off balance," D-backs third baseman Jake Lamb said of Happ. "He was making some good pitches at the right time. We just weren't able to really get anything going."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
One hit, one run: It only took one hit, a single by Francisco Cervelli, for the Pirates to scratch across their first run. Ray hit Jung Ho Kang with a slider to lead off the second inning, then Cervelli's single sent Kang to third base. Michael Morse followed by striking out swinging, but the strikeout pitch got away from catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia, allowing Kang to score.
Ray's losing streak continues: With the loss, Ray remained winless in the month of August. The lefty's last win came on July 7, and he is now 0-5 over seven starts since then. Despite the loss, D-backs manager Chip Hale praised Ray's ability to settle in after the three-run second and give the team six innings.
"He was able to give us the six," Hale said. "Unfortunately, not in a winning cause, but he kept it to three, gave us a chance to come back. We were able to save the rest of the bullpen. Hopefully, going into Cincinnati that'll give us a leg up."
Easy as 7-8-9: The Pirates have rarely seen a late-inning lead evaporate the way it did in Tuesday's 15-inning marathon. Sure enough, the Bucs' bullpen returned to form in the final three innings Wednesday night. Setup men Joakim Soria and Tony Watson pitched the seventh and eighth, and closer Mark Melancon finished the ninth after left-hander Antonio Bastardo allowed the first two batters he faced to reach safely.
"It's a save situation. Who do you want to close the game in a save situation?" Hurdle said. "We wanted Melancon."
Close but not enough: The D-backs rallied in the ninth against Bastardo before Paul Goldschmidt drove home a run with a ground-ball single to left off Melancon. That was as close as the D-backs would come, though, as Melancon was able to slam the door.
"He's one of the best in the league," Lamb said of Melancon. "So we battled just like we did the past two nights. He's one of the better ones and that's why you've got to get on the starter and the middle relief guys."
"It's been fun to win fairly consistently. I was happy to be a part of that, to contribute tonight, for sure." --Happ
"That's definitely the sign of a great team. You basically sit down on a daily basis and you can hope or see that anybody on the team can come through big for the team." --Pirates second baseman Sean Rodriguez, who went 3-for-4
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Pittsburgh has gone 17-4 over its last 21 home games and 41-19 overall at PNC Park this year. Wednesday's win before a crowd of 32,088 also gave the Pirates their seventh straight series victory at home.
D-backs: The D-backs open a four-game series with the Reds on Thursday at 4:10 p.m. MST at Great American Ball Park. Left-hander Patrick Corbin will get the start for Arizona. Corbin won his last start Saturday against the Braves when he tossed 6 2/3 scoreless innings.
Pirates: The Bucs will host the Giants on Thursday night at PNC Park, kicking off a four-game set between National League postseason hopefuls. Pittsburgh sits atop the NL Wild Card standings, while San Francisco would be the first team out if the season ended today. The Pirates will send Charlie Morton to the mound at 7:05 p.m. ET, as the right-hander looks to continue his success (2.84 ERA in 11 career starts) against the Giants.