Bucs outlast Dodgers in battle of bullpens

June 24th, 2016

PITTSBURGH -- Asked to protect the Pirates' most productive offensive performance in nearly three weeks, the back end of the Bucs' bullpen delivered in an 8-6 win over the Dodgers on Friday night at PNC Park. Setup men Neftali Feliz and Tony Watson and closer Mark Melancon put the game away in the final 3 2/3 innings as Pittsburgh won for just the second time in 10 games.
"Those guys are awesome. Those guys are going to be huge for us the rest of the year," said Pirates outfielder Matt Joyce, who went 3-for-4 with a homer and two RBIs. "We have to find a way to get the lead and keep the lead going into the late part of the game so those guys can slam the door shut."
With the soft underbelly of the Pirates' bullpen exposed by Jameson Taillon's four-inning start, Feliz recorded five outs, his first time logging more than three in a single outing this season. Watson needed seven pitches, all strikes, to complete a perfect eighth. Melancon allowed Corey Seager's career-high-tying fourth hit, induced a double play then sealed his 21st save in the ninth. Feliz settled down a back-and-forth affair, outlasting the Dodgers in what ultimately became a long battle of the bullpens.
"[Down four runs early] is not where you want to start the road trip," said Dodgers manager Dave Roberts. "We had to dig into the 'pen, but it is what it is. I appreciate that nobody makes any excuses. The position players think they should have scored more runs. The 'pen is saying they shouldn't have given up any runs. Everybody is being accountable."
Making his fourth Major League start, Taillon left before recording an out in the fifth inning. He allowed four runs on eight hits and a run-scoring balk in the third inning, throwing 70 pitches before Clint Hurdle -- who won his 1,000th career game as a Major League manager -- called for an early exit. But the Pirates got the best of Dodgers righty Nick Tepesch, who surrendered five runs on seven hits in four innings, and provided a glimmer of hope that perhaps their season is about to turn around.
Fifth starter still question mark for Dodgers
"We're just waiting for that string of three, four or five in a row. But you've got to start with one first," Pirates shortstop Jordy Mercer said. "They're a really good team. … Hopefully it's the start of something."
Star power: Limited to pinch-hitting the last two days due to a sore left foot, Starling Marte got back in the lineup Friday and quickly made an impact. Marte capped the Pirates' four-run second inning with a double into the right-center field gap, driving in John Jaso and giving the Bucs a four-run lead they'd need every bit of.
"Hit the ball hard where it's pitched. It sounds simple. It's hard to do. But when you do it, it just looks so good, so pretty," Hurdle said of the Pirates' second-inning approach. "They were moving the ball around the field, not trying to overcook anything."

No "D": The Dodgers forgot how to play defense in Pittsburgh's four-run second inning. After Joyce's leadoff double, Mercer singled to right fielder Yasiel Puig, who overthrew cutoff man Adrian Gonzalez even though Joyce was stopped at third, allowing Mercer to take second base. Both scored on a single to center by Sean Rodriguez, who should have been nailed trying for second, but Seager dropped Gonzalez's throw while applying the tag.

Save that ball: Called up by the Pirates before Friday's game, Adam Frazier made his Major League debut as part of a double switch in the sixth inning. Frazier entered the game to play second base, one of the six spots he'll be asked to field, and made his first big league plate appearance later that inning. Frazier stayed back on a 2-2 curveball from reliever J.P. Howell and swatted it into center field for a single, his first Major League hit.
"He managed his at-bats very well," Hurdle said. "He'll find his way back on the field again." More >

Puig returns hot: According to Statcast™, Puig smoked a 439-foot, 108-mph home run in the sixth inning as part of a 2-for-4 night. He is 5-for-11 in three games since returning from the disabled list on Tuesday. The Dodgers have homered in 14 consecutive games, tying Washington for the longest such streak in MLB this season.
"It was good to see the fight in our offense," said Roberts. "Every day you need a quality outing from your starter, but the offense is starting to come alive."

"It was a very interesting way to get there tonight." -- Hurdle, on win No. 1,000
Of Hurdle's 1,000 managerial victories, 315 have come with the Pirates over the last four seasons, 2013-16. Only the Cardinals (325) and Dodgers (319) have won more games in that time.
Dodgers:Kenta Maeda starts Saturday night's 4:15 p.m. PT game at PNC Park, coming off 6 1/3 innings against the Brewers. Aside from Clayton Kershaw, Maeda is the only Dodgers pitcher with a start longer than six innings since May 14.
Pirates: Left-hander Jeff Locke will start Saturday's 7:05 p.m. ET game at PNC Park, looking to repeat the results of a 1-0 win over Madison Bumgarner and the Giants. Locke tossed 6 2/3 scoreless innings on Monday, continuing his solid season when pitching at home. Locke is 4-1 with a 3.26 ERA in six starts at PNC Park compared to 2-4 with a 7.36 ERA in eight road starts.
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