Bucs' seventh-inning rally fizzles vs. Wood
Pirates can't cash in after two singles
PITTSBURGH -- The Pirates entered the seventh inning down by two runs with the heart of the order coming up against Braves lefty Alex Wood, who'd been all but unhittable in Sunday afternoon's 2-1 loss at PNC Park. Francisco Cervelli formulated a plan in his mind as the inning unfolded.
If Andrew McCutchen and Starling Marte got on base, he was going to bunt for a hit. If it worked, great. If it didn't, Jordy Mercer and Sean Rodriguez were due up with one out and two fast runners in scoring position.
The scenario played out as Cervelli imagined, except Wood fielded his bunt and threw to first base for the out. The rally quickly fizzled after that and the Pirates lost.
"We are 25 guys, and I trust my teammates. We've got everybody's back," Cervelli said. "I just put it there. If it doesn't happen, I will try again because I trust in my teammates."
Cervelli had every right to trust his own bat. He's been the Pirates' best hitter against left-handed pitching this season, posting a .368/.429/.500 line against lefties. Instead, he opted to bunt.
"I wish I had Marte's speed, but I don't," Cervelli said. "I tried, and Jordy's swinging really good, so why not?"
The plan nearly worked. Cervelli avoided a double play and still left the Pirates with a chance to tie the game.
But Mercer, hitting .321 over his last seven games, was called out on an inside fastball, and Rodriguez worked a full count before lofting a popout to second base.
"I trust my guys when they go out and play. He felt he was going to make a baseball play and give an opportunity to somebody else," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said of Cervelli's decision. "I don't have a don't-bunt-for-a-base-hit sign. He had a feel for it. He might not have had the looks he wanted at the plate. There's a lot more that goes into it than that."
Pittsburgh scored one run in the ninth, off closer Jason Grilli, when Mercer's fly ball to left-center led two Braves outfielders to collide and landed for an RBI double.
The Pirates didn't have many other opportunities, finishing the game 0-for-6 with runners in scoring position. It was the 17th time this year that the Pirates have scored one run or fewer. Last season, they only had 23 such games all year.
"Wood's got good stuff. His ability to two-seam the fastball back over the inside part of the plate today played," Hurdle said. "The back-foot slider and the backdoor slider also played today. We only had a few guys in the lineup get some good looks.
"He made pitches. We didn't have a lot of situations to push him."