PITTSBURGH -- Joe Musgrove waited a long time to make his first impression. He spent two months working his way through Minor League starts and wishing he could help his new teammates. Nervous energy set in earlier this week, and he did everything he could to ease his usual pre-start
PITTSBURGH -- Joe Musgrove waited a long time to make his first impression. He spent two months working his way through Minor League starts and wishing he could help his new teammates. Nervous energy set in earlier this week, and he did everything he could to ease his usual pre-start anxiety on Friday afternoon.
When the time finally came Friday night at PNC Park, Musgrove delivered a gem. The right-hander fired seven scoreless innings, struck out seven, recorded his first Major League hit and scored a run as the Pirates' bats broke out late in an 8-1 win over the Cardinals.
"This is kind of the way I wanted to come out. I've had plenty of time to get myself right and get things where they need to be," Musgrove said. "This is the pitcher I wanted to show them, and I was able to do that. It's a good feeling."
The Pirates acquired Musgrove from the Astros in January alongside third baseman Colin Moran, setup man Michael Feliz and outfield prospect Jason Martin. The cost was Gerrit Cole, who immediately emerged as an ace-level performer in Houston. Meanwhile, Musgrove lamented his inability to help the Pirates. He was set back in Spring Training by shoulder soreness. When he was nearly ready to join Pittsburgh's rotation just after Opening Day, he was sidelined by a shoulder strain.
So, Musgrove did the necessary rehabilitation work and made four starts in the Minors, pitching for three Pirates affiliates before donning the black and gold in Pittsburgh on Friday night. The wait was worth it. Musgrove allowed five hits and didn't walk anybody in his first Major League start since July 15.
Musgrove pounded the zone, throwing 50 of his 67 pitches for strikes. He did not reach a two-ball count until there were two outs in the sixth inning and retired 20 of the 25 batters he faced on three pitches or fewer.
Musgrove said he wasn't familiar with the Cardinals' lineup, so he relied on catcher Francisco Cervelli's game plan. They established Musgrove's four-seam fastball early on, mixed in his sinker and cutter to keep hitters off balance, and sprinkled in sliders and changeups when the Cardinals put runners on base.
"The important thing about him is, he doesn't throw a pitch just because. It's got purpose," Cervelli said. "The most important thing today was that he's healthy. He's able to be on the mound and he's able to help us."
Perhaps the only disappointing part of his Pirates debut for the 22,629 in attendance was that it didn't last longer. Musgrove was pulled for pinch-hitter Adam Frazier with runners on the corners as the Pirates rallied for three runs in the seventh inning.
"Risk versus reward, I think you kind of need to factor that in at some point in time. We just got him back," manager Clint Hurdle said. "I think there was more in the tank. We talked about it. Then [there was] an opportunity to add on runs; if that wasn't a priority, I think he had more to do it."
Sure, there were nerves when Musgrove took the mound. But he has learned to manage them. After all, his last official appearance before Friday night was in Game 6 of the World Series.
"I'll always carry that with me," Musgrove said. "The experience I gained out there, I was able … to be calm in a situation like this, where there is a lot of outside noise going on about expectations and stuff. That's where I feel at home, out on the mound."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Pitchers who rake, run: As part of his effort to stay loose, Musgrove took pregame batting practice on the field with his teammates. During one round, he was working on hitting outside pitches to the opposite field. But he kept leaning over, so hitting coach Jeff Branson offered him tips on how to stay upright while still reaching the outside pitch.
Musgrove led off the sixth inning against Cards right-hander John Gant, who had matched him zero for zero to that point. Gant threw Musgrove a 1-1 fastball, down and away, and Musgrove smacked it to right field for his first big league hit.
"I was looking for [Branson] in the dugout to tell him that he was the guy responsible for me getting on there," Musgrove said.
Josh Harrison was responsible for driving home Musgrove, though. Harrison ripped a double to right-center field, and Musgrove motored around from first base and slid home to score Pittsburgh's go-ahead run and spark a three-run inning.
"I told him, I was like, I want to see the exit velo [101.8 mph], because I feel like it was by [Cardinals first baseman Jose] Martinez before he dove," Harrison said. "Joe's an athlete, man. … I'm glad we were able to get him a run and get him some rest, too."
Center fielder Austin Meadows went 2-for-4 with a triple, giving him 13 hits in his first seven Major League games. Only Jack Merson had more for the Pirates, recording 14 in 1951. Fred Kommers (1913) and Gregory Polanco (2014) also had 13 hits over their first seven games in the Majors.
Shortstop Jordy Mercer followed Meadows' eighth-inning triple with one of his own, giving Pittsburgh its first consecutive triples since April 28, 2017, when Mpho' Ngoepe and Alen Hanson -- neither of whom is in the organization 13 months later -- went back-to-back.
HE SAID IT
"I haven't run the bases in forever, so I didn't know who to look for or what to look at. I was just running as hard as I could. … I was trying. I felt like I was moving underwater, but I got the job done." -- Musgrove, on sliding home to score his first run in the Majors
Center fielder Starling Marte may return from a stint on the disabled list Saturday as the Pirates continue a three-game series with the Cardinals at PNC Park at 4:05 p.m. ET. Right-hander Trevor Williams will get the start for Pittsburgh and the Cardinals will have righty Jack Flaherty on the mound.
Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook and read his blog.