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Pirates rally to complete sweep of A's

July 3, 2016

OAKLAND -- The Pirates bullpen held strong yet again Sunday, even when the A's pushed it to the brink. Oakland put runners on the corners in both the sixth and seventh innings only to see Pittsburgh relievers wiggle out of trouble and keep their scoreless streak alive, as the Pirates

OAKLAND -- The Pirates bullpen held strong yet again Sunday, even when the A's pushed it to the brink. Oakland put runners on the corners in both the sixth and seventh innings only to see Pittsburgh relievers wiggle out of trouble and keep their scoreless streak alive, as the Pirates swept the A's with a 6-3 win at the Coliseum.
"We've done this before. It's not like we're doing anything new," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "The guys don't quit. They play. We kept scratching against good pitching."
The Pirates have won four in a row, moving back to .500 for the first time since June 16, and their bullpen hasn't allowed a run in 32 innings.
Trailing 4-3, Tyler Ladendorf and Coco Crisp led off the seventh for Oakland with back-to-back singles against Neftali Feliz, who responded by striking out two of the next three batters he faced. David Freese gave the bullpen breathing room in the eighth, tacking on a two-run homer off John Axford.
Pittsburgh dealt A's rookie Daniel Mengden his fourth career loss in five starts. Mengden labored Sunday, allowing four runs in 5 1/3 innings while tying a career high in walks (four) and hitting a batter. He was edged by Francisco Liriano, who gave up three runs over five innings and won his first game since May 24. More >

"With what he's been through the last six or seven starts, this was a good time to make a move," Hurdle said of removing Liriano. "Hand the ball to the guys that have been on a roll and see what happens."
Pittsburgh took the lead for good in an eventful sixth inning, scoring two runs off Mengden to take a 4-3 lead. Hurdle was ejected in the sixth for arguing balls and strikes and the A's had an opportunity to re-take the lead in the bottom of the inning, but Stephen Vogt lined into an inning-ending double play with runners on the corners.
The A's have now lost four in a row after winning six of seven.
"I've been trying to," said Melvin when asked to put his finger on the inconsistency. "We felt like with the Angels series and the Giants series we were on our way to playing a lot better. Then we got derailed again this series." More >
Around goes Frazier: Rookie Adam Frazier continued to be a sparkplug for the Pirates lineup, flying around the bases with reckless abandon Sunday afternoon. Dubbed a "backyard ballplayer" by Hurdle, one of his highest compliments, Frazier turned a routine single to center into a double in the fifth inning and ripped an RBI triple to right field in the sixth. It was the rookie's second multi-hit game and his first three-hit game.
"It's fun," Frazier said. "That's why they brought me here, to be able to contribute in any way possible. That's what I'm trying to do."

The sixth gets away: The A's took a 3-2 lead into the sixth but Mengden couldn't hold it. Ladendorf failed to turn a double play on a Josh Harrison grounder and Frazier made Oakland pay, tripling in Harrison to tie it at 3-3. Mengden then walked Jordy Mercer and gave up an RBI single to Erik Kratz -- which deflected off Mengden's glove before hitting Mercer as he ran to second -- to take a one-run lead.
"He's pitched so well for us," Melvin said of Mengden. "This is the first time he really hasn't. I don't think he was tired. I think they made some pretty good swings toward the end of his outing."
Struck out of trouble: An inning after A.J. Schugel escaped a first-and-third, one-out jam, Pirates setup man Feliz did him one better. Feliz put runners on the corners with no outs in the seventh and escaped, retiring the next three A's hitters in order. The hard-throwing right-hander struck out Marcus Semien, got Josh Reddick to pop out to second base and fanned Danny Valencia with a 98-mph fastball, pumping both fists in celebration before walking off the mound.
"Mentally, that doesn't distract me at all. I focus pitch by pitch," Feliz said through interpreter Mike Gonzalez. "My goal is to strike out that batter. No matter who's on base, I'm here to strike out batters." More >

No time to wait: The A's didn't wait long to give Matt McBride a nod, starting him the same day he was called up to replace Josh Phegley, who went on the disabled list with a strained right knee. They did, however, have to wait a bit for McBride, who was traveling from Triple-A Nashville and still hadn't made it to the ballpark 90 minutes prior to first pitch. He arrived in time and immediately made an impact, throwing out John Jaso attempting to take second on the second play of the game and adding an RBI in his first at-bat in the second inning. He later doubled and scored in the fifth.

"Everybody contributed. Everybody played. Everybody threw something in." -- Hurdle
"I never lost my confidence. Baseball's tough. You go through tough times. I thought I was going through one. Just keep at it, try to get better every start." -- Liriano
The Pirates logged eight comeback wins in three months from April to June. In this series, they came from behind to win all three games.
A's starting pitchers have allowed 21 runs in 20 1/3 innings over the last four games, pitching to a 9.30 ERA.
Starling Marte was called safe on a grounder to first in the fourth inning, after it was unclear if Mengden tagged the bag on an underhand toss from Billy Butler. The A's challenged and the call was overturned when replay showed Mengden clearly beat Marte to the bag.

Hurdle was ejected for the second time this week, tossed by home-plate umpire Sam Holbrook for arguing balls and strikes. The Pirates have frequently expressed their frustration this season over what they perceive to be an inconsistent strike zone. That was the case Tuesday in Seattle, when hitting coach Jeff Branson was ejected and Hurdle followed suit shortly afterward, and it appeared to be the case again during the sixth inning.
"We just disagreed," Hurdle said.
Pirates: The Pirates will enter the All-Star break after four games against the Cardinals and three with the Cubs, a stretch that begins at 2:15 p.m. ET on Monday at Busch Stadium. Left-hander Jonathon Niese (6-6, 5.07 ERA) will start the series against Cardinals right-hander Carlos Martinez (7-5, 2.83). Pittsburgh took two of three May 6-8 in St. Louis, the Bucs' second straight winning series at Busch Stadium.
A's: Oakland heads to Minnesota for a three-game series with the Twins beginning Monday at 11:10 a.m. PT. Kendall Graveman (3-6, 4.84 ERA) gets the nod Monday, coming off a start Tuesday against the Giants where he allowed four runs on nine hits over five innings in a no-decision.
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Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for since 2015.

Mark Chiarelli is a reporter for based in the Bay Area.