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Watson, Hudson show grit under pressure

Relievers escape tense jams to secure Bucs' win, series victory
MLB.com

PITTSBURGH -- It would be easy to understand if the 27,840 fans at PNC Park on Sunday afternoon moved to the edge of their seats when second baseman Josh Harrison booted Ronald Torreyes' potential game-ending double-play grounder in the ninth inning.

The Pirates' defense cost them Saturday's game against the Yankees. But closer Tony Watson would not let the story repeat itself in the series finale. An inning after setup man Daniel Hudson escaped trouble, Watson left the bases loaded in the ninth to seal the Bucs' 2-1 win over the Yankees.

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PITTSBURGH -- It would be easy to understand if the 27,840 fans at PNC Park on Sunday afternoon moved to the edge of their seats when second baseman Josh Harrison booted Ronald Torreyes' potential game-ending double-play grounder in the ninth inning.

The Pirates' defense cost them Saturday's game against the Yankees. But closer Tony Watson would not let the story repeat itself in the series finale. An inning after setup man Daniel Hudson escaped trouble, Watson left the bases loaded in the ninth to seal the Bucs' 2-1 win over the Yankees.

View Full Game Coverage

"We're always picking each other up," Watson said. "It's a team effort out there."

Right-hander Ivan Nova afforded his former team few scoring opportunities, allowing only one run as he breezed through seven innings on 87 pitches. But the Yankees' dangerous lineup created a chance in the eighth against Hudson, the Pirates' only other significant free-agent signing this past offseason.

Chris Carter singled with one out, then Hudson walked Brett Gardner. With two outs and Starlin Castro at the plate, pinch-runner Pete Kozma took third on a wild pitch. Hudson was in the midst of a nine-pitch battle, seemingly unable to put away the free-swinging Castro as he fouled off five pitches.

"I was trying to get something by him. He was battling. Seemed to do that all weekend, really," Hudson said. "We got him to swing and miss a couple times, but he's tough. He's a tough at-bat. Pretty much threw everything I had at him."

Video: NYY@PIT: Hudson fans Castro to maintain lead

Finally, Hudson threw Castro a 95.1-mph fastball inside and above the zone. Castro swung and missed, stranding both runners, then slammed his bat in the dirt. Hudson shouted and pumped his fist before walking off the mound.

"It's swing-and-miss stuff. Strikeouts are good. Big fan of them, always have been," manager Clint Hurdle said. "He bent, but he didn't break. He's got the skill-set and the resolve.

Watson entered in the ninth and quickly retired Jacoby Ellsbury. Aaron Judge stayed back on a changeup and singled to right, then Matt Holliday walked. Up came Torreyes, who hit a weak grounder that Harrison couldn't handle. Just like that, the bases were loaded with one out and Watson was on the ropes.

"It's not ideal," Watson said. "It's what happens in baseball. … Crazy things happen out there. Just make your pitches, one pitch at a time, and go to work."

So Watson focused on getting ahead of Aaron Hicks, who promptly fouled off the first two pitches he saw. Watson let loose a high fastball -- "drilled that pitch," he said -- and Hicks swung through it. Two down, one to go.

Kozma got ahead of Watson, two balls and no strikes, before slapping a 92.1-mph sinker to the left side of the infield. Third baseman David Freese scooped it up and made a quick throw to Harrison at second base for the final out. After being done in by their defensive mistakes on Saturday, the Pirates could celebrate Sunday, thanks to Watson's ability to move past one.

"That's what back-end relief pitching is all about. Keep your focus," Watson said. "You can't control what goes on behind you or other situations going on. Just try to make your pitches, and good things will happen."

Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook, read his blog and listen to his podcast.

Pittsburgh Pirates, Daniel Hudson, Tony Watson