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Worley proves clutch in tight situation

Getting out of fifth-inning jam leads to first win of season

PITTSBURGH -- In the bottom of Friday's fourth inning, the Pirates did something they had not done since Monday's seventh inning: Score. The pressure on a pitcher immediately after his team scores is always pronounced, because few situations in baseball are as leveraged as the shutdown inning.

But the burden on Vance Worley after the Bucs had tied the Brewers at 1 in PNC Park was exponentially heavier due to the circumstances. How the right-hander responded to that challenge was the boldfaced part of the 6-3 victory.

The vise around Worley became even tighter when Jean Segura and Jonathan Lucroy delivered consecutive singles with one away. And here came Ryan Braun -- who had spent last April tormenting Pittsburgh. Friday marked the anniversary of the start of a series here in which he went 7-for-18 with a pair of crushing ninth-inning homers.

Worley quickly dug an 0-2 hole for Braun, then fed him a two-seam fastball he could only poke to second baseman Sean Rodriguez for the start of an inning-ending double play.

Video: [email protected]: Worley blocks comebacker and tosses to first

"A big inning. To get that double play played very well for us, a big shot in the arm for everybody in a Pirate uniform," said manager Clint Hurdle.

"It was very clutch," Worley himself said, with a wry grin. "I had him where I wanted him, and threw him a good pitch. Made him go out and fish for it, and hit it to my defense."

Worley was rewarded when the Bucs' awakening offense added two runs in the bottom of that inning, leaving him as the pitcher of record when he departed after six.

Worley had gone a tad longer (6 1/3 innings) on Saturday at Miller Park. However, the difference was that he gave up six runs then, only two Friday night. And his adjusted approach made the difference.

Following the previous meeting, Worley had admitted, with a nearly-stunned look, being surprised by the Brewers' aggressive, jump-on-the-first-pitch approach, calling it "different than anything I'd ever seen them do."

He responded with a tit for that tat.

"I changed," Worley said. "I made sure I kept them off-balance, and when they started looking to hit the different pitches I was making, I went back to what I used to do. It's all about making adjustments on the fly.

"I was still able to work them inside by starting them away. You can't protect both sides of the plate; very few guys can do that."

That is essentislly how he survived Braun at the game's defining moment. After getting a two-strike advantage on him with two fastballs on the hands -- one missed, the other fouled off -- Worley dotted the outside black and made Braun chase.

"We needed a guy to make a pitch," Hurdle said, "and he's done it before and was able to do it again, to a very good hitter in a very tight situation."

Tom Singer is a reporter for and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. Follow him on Twitter @Tom_Singer.
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