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Pirates' bullpen falters in eighth frame vs. Fish

With Watson unavailable, Wilson and Co. walk four in five-run inning

PITTSBURGH -- The Pirates were without their star center fielder Tuesday night, but that is not what bit them. It was the absence of their setup man.

The Marlins scored five times in the eighth -- the tying and go-ahead runs coming on bases-loaded walks by Justin Wilson -- and came back to beat the Bucs, 6-3, at PNC Park. The Marlins sent 11 hitters to the plate and the Pirates went through four relievers in the deciding frame.

Usual eighth-inning pitcher Tony Watson was unavailable after pitching an inning in all three of the Bucs' games in Arizona this past weekend -- including a 22-pitch showing on Sunday -- before the team's off-day on Monday. An All-Star, the lefty has a 1.52 ERA, 1.050 WHIP and 25 holds in 52 games this season.

"[Watson] was just not going to pitch tonight," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "That was predetermined before the game. He was not in a position to pitch."

Jared Hughes took over for starter Charlie Morton in the eighth with a 2-1 lead. Hughes got one out before issuing a walk to Giancarlo Stanton on four pitches.

"I got to get ahead in the count right there, I got to," said Hughes, who was charged with the loss. "Walking the tying run with nobody on base, it's going to come back to get you, and it did today."

Casey McGehee followed Stanton's walk by reaching on an error by third baseman Josh Harrison, ending Hughes' night. Wilson entered the game and faced three batters. Pinch-hitter Jeff Baker singled, and the next two -- Marcell Ozuna and Jarrod Saltalamacchia -- drew walks with the bags full to send Wilson off the mound to an unhappy crowd.

The inning managed to go further downhill for the Pirates' bullpen. Jeanmar Gomez gave up two hits and an RBI groundout, as three more runs scored. Finally, Stolmy Pimental came in and ended the quagmire with a three-pitch strikeout of Stanton with the bases loaded.

The Pirates' final eighth-inning pitching line was: five runs (three earned runs) three hits, four walks, 42 pitches (21 strikes), four pitchers.

"There were walks involved, there was an error," Hurdle said. "We just didn't get the things done that we needed to get done with a one-run lead."

On the flip side, Marlins manager Mike Redmond, whose team drew eight walks in the game, said his team had "great at-bats" to reverse their fortunes late in the contest.

"I don't think we're known for a team that takes a lot of walks," Redmond said. "We were able to zone it up and be patient at times when we needed it."

The bullpen breakdown spoiled an effective outing from Morton. The sinkerballer gave up just one run in seven frames, scattering six hits and striking out four.

The only run against Morton came in the fourth inning when former Pirates first baseman Garret Jones singled and Ozuna drove him in with a double. Morton also worked around four free passes of his own, and he was aided by double plays in the fourth and sixth innings.

"Tonight, for the most part, I was lucky and had some great plays made behind me," Morton said. "And I made some pitches in key situations to get some double plays."

Gregory Polanco slapped what at the time was the go-ahead single in the seventh inning to score Neil Walker, but that was long forgotten by the time the top half of the eighth concluded. The other sources of Pirates' offense came on a Jordy Mercer double in the third to open the scoring and a Chris Stewart RBI single in the ninth.

Polanco was the last batter for Miami starter Brad Hand, who kept the Pirates quiet and had three 1-2-3 innings. Hand lasted 6 1/3, allowed two runs on six hits, struck out four and walked one.

Starling Marte was activated from the seven-day concussion disabled list earlier in the day and got the start in center field with Andrew McCutchen sidelined with a fractured rib. Marte went 1-for-4 and scored a run in his first game since July 21.

Stephen Pianovich is an associate reporter for
Read More: Pittsburgh Pirates, Jared Hughes, Justin Wilson, Charlie Morton, Gregory Polanco, Jordy Mercer