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Musgrove takes charge to snap Pirates' skid

May 30, 2018

PITTSBURGH -- Joe Musgrove gave Pirates fans the moral victory they wanted on the bases, sliding hard into second to break up a double play in the third inning. He delivered a more important, much-needed win on the mound.Musgrove followed up his brilliant Pittsburgh debut with another strong start on

PITTSBURGH -- Joe Musgrove gave Pirates fans the moral victory they wanted on the bases, sliding hard into second to break up a double play in the third inning. He delivered a more important, much-needed win on the mound.
Musgrove followed up his brilliant Pittsburgh debut with another strong start on Wednesday night, holding the Cubs to one run over seven innings in the Pirates' 2-1 victory at PNC Park. His boldness on the basepaths sent a jolt into both dugouts, and his effort on the mound helped snap the Bucs' four-game skid.
"There's a lot of people that want to win. You've got to go play to win," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "You've got to figure out how to win. Musgrove stopped the direction we were headed."

After leading off the third inning with a single to right field, Musgrove slid past the bag and into second baseman Javier Baez to break up a double play on Josh Harrison's grounder to third. Musgrove and Baez exchanged words, and both benches and bullpens emptied without further incident despite the tensions that began building when Anthony Rizzo slid into catcher Elias Diaz on Monday night. The Pirates never truly retaliated, as Hurdle insisted that winning would be their best retribution.
"He knows I'm not trying to hurt him, but I was trying to go in hard and just break up a double play," Musgrove said. "That's how we're taught to play the ballgame. It is what it is. It's over now."

Musgrove fell behind early, allowing one run when Albert Almora Jr. doubled and scored on an RBI single by Baez to begin a 27-pitch first inning. But Harrison immediately evened the score with his sixth career leadoff home run off Cubs starter Kyle Hendricks, and Gregory Polanco's second-inning sacrifice fly gave Musgrove a lead.
The right-hander threw only one perfect inning, a nine-pitch fifth, but worked his way out of trouble all night. He left the bases loaded in the first and didn't allow an extra-base hit after Almora's double or another hit with a runner in scoring position following Baez's single.
Musgrove gave up seven hits and four walks while striking out five. Musgrove's efficient, seven-inning Pirates debut might have been more memorable, especially given the anticipation he felt after two months on the disabled list. But Hurdle said his performance on Wednesday might have been even stronger.
"His demeanor on the mound is unbelievable. He has great stuff to go along with it, and he has the confidence," said Corey Dickerson, who scored the winning run. "We feel that, and we play behind it with confidence. We're having fun playing behind him. He did a really good job tonight."
Musgrove perhaps fittingly retired Rizzo to end the seventh, pumped his fist as he walked off the mound and put the game in the hands of Pittsburgh's embattled bullpen.
"I'm just trying to go out and be productive every fifth day and try to get through seven innings," Musgrove said. "It does feel good to come out like this, especially after missing the first two months."

With setup men Edgar Santana and Michael Feliz overworked over the past week, Hurdle turned to Kyle Crick in the eighth. The right-hander retired the side in order, breezing through one of his first high-leverage spots of the season on only 12 pitches. Closer Felipe Vazquez, who blew each of his last three save opportunities, worked around two hits in the ninth to seal the Bucs' 29th win of the season.
"There's a lot more people more worried about Felipe than I am," Hurdle said. "He's pretty special to have. I think there's also that part of a player that knows when your performance isn't what it has been, you've got to earn it every day up here."

Dickerson is always looking for an extra base, some way to turn a single into a double and a double into a triple. He did the latter when leading off the second inning against Hendricks, slapping a ball to left field and legging out a triple as Kyle Schwarber chased after the ball.
After Colin Moran struck out, Polanco hit a fly ball to deep -- but not too deep -- center field. Dickerson decided he'd force Almora to make a play and hustled home, sliding in safely. Polanco's first RBI since May 15 gave the Pirates a one-run lead they wouldn't relinquish.
"I always want to make something happen," Dickerson said. "For Polanco, you want to score for guys that do a job, put the ball in the air. I've been in that situation before, and you want the guy to score."

Only two Pirates pitchers have completed seven innings more than once this season: Ivan Nova (seven innings on April 10, eight innings on April 26) and Musgrove. Chad Kuhl, Jameson Taillon, Trevor Williams and Nick Kingham have each thrown at least seven scoreless innings in one start this season.
Harrison's solo shot was the Pirates' fourth leadoff homer of the season. Adam Frazier hit two, and Sean Rodriguez slugged the other.

"I saw him in the playoffs and everything. He's a tough guy. When he's on the mound, he's mean. He's the kind of guy that you want to have on the mound all the time."-- Catcher Francisco Cervelli, on Musgrove
"Could've had a few more wins under our belt, but that's how baseball works. That's how baseball goes. Every team goes through it. It just depends, when you go through it, how quick you can get out of it. I feel like we're coming together a lot better lately, and we haven't given up on each other. Winning's fun. Hopefully we can do that."-- Dickerson, on the Pirates ending their losing streak
Trevor Williams will make his second straight start against the Cardinals to open a four-game series at Busch Stadium. Williams is looking to rebound from his shortest start of the season, as he allowed four earned runs over four innings. Righty Jack Flaherty will start for St. Louis at 7:15 p.m. ET on Thursday.

Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for since 2015. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook and read his blog.