Young Bucs continue coming up big late in games

Pirates' Minor Leaguers stage another rally

March 5th, 2016
Jake Goebbert (23) had an two-run double during Saturday's 9-6 win over the Braves. (Getty)

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- The Pirates have found themselves down or tied late in every game this spring. And every time, the team's prospects have entered the game and produced some sort of rally.

Saturday's rally versus the Braves featured five runs in the sixth to turn a 5-1 deficit into a 6-5 lead. Three more runs in the eighth made way for a 9-6 final.

On Tuesday, they scored the final two runs of a 4-2 win against the Tigers. On Wednesday, the game against the Tigers was out of hand, but the Bucs put up two runs in the ninth. A five-run breakout in the seventh Thursday turned a 10-2 laugher into a 10-8 final with another added run in the ninth. And Friday, after the Twins went ahead 2-1 in the top of the ninth, the Pirates added a run to force a tie. 

"I apologized to [the Minor Leaguers] today. I said, 'This is the fifth game in a row I've done this -- it's managerial error,'" manager Clint Hurdle Hurdle joked. "I need to flip the lineup and back them up with the pros."

Braves pitcher Ryan Weber struck out Gregory Polanco to start the sixth before Harold Ramirez reached on an error and Josh Bell walked. Weber got Max Moroff to line to right, but then the Pirates found their two-out lightning.

Elias Diaz singled to center, scoring Ramirez. Alen Hanson's single to left plated Bell, and then Hanson stole second. Jake Goebbert doubled to right to send Diaz and Hanson home. 

Just like that, the game was tied.

The rally might have continued after Pedro Florimon's single scored Goebbert, but Florimon became the third out in a rundown between first and second.

In the eighth, Moroff and Diaz led off with singles to set up Hanson for a bunt, which also became a single when the Braves left first base unoccupied. A wild pitch advanced the runners to make it 7-5, and Florimon's one-out bloop single to left gave the Bucs a comfortable four-run lead, their first this spring.

"It does speak to the organizational depth," Hurdle said. "It speaks to these men and their preparation. Some of them are moving on first-time opportunities in camp. Some of them are coming off very successful seasons where there was incremental progress -- and there has been for years. They want to be seen by the Major League club. … You can tell them that these games don't count but they matter -- the games count; the at-bats count; the runs count; when they score, when they get a hit, all those things count for them right now."

This late-game success has sparked a young enthusiasm Hurdle believes can benefit the MLB team, to the point many of the starters stayed around to watch their substitutes pull off another comeback.

Around the horn

• David Holmberg hit Polanco in the finger in the fourth inning, prompting attention from trainers. He remained in the game and is not expected to miss time.

• After top pitching prospects Tyler Glasnow and Jameson Taillon allowed three runs in the first 3 2/3 innings, Steven Brault, Chad Kuhl and Trevor Williams threw the final five innings. Brault allowed two runs on three hits and a homer but got the win; Kuhl allowed three hits and a solo homer en route to a hold; and Williams earned the save with one hit and two strikeouts in a scoreless ninth.

• Juan Nicasio is scheduled to make his first start of the spring at 1:05 p.m. Sunday against the Astros at McKechnie Field in Bradenton. Kyle Lobstein, Arquimedes Caminero, Jared Hughes, John Holdzkom and Wilfredo Boscan round out a pitching slate full of potential MLB relievers.