PITTSBURGH -- Pirates manager Clint Hurdle isn't one to indulge in the hype of pitcher-versus-pitcher matchups. Trevor Williams had to focus on facing the Mets' lineup on Saturday night, not ace Jacob deGrom. But still …"I understand that marquee matchup-type mentality," Hurdle said, "whether it's David and Goliath or however
PITTSBURGH -- Pirates manager Clint Hurdle isn't one to indulge in the hype of pitcher-versus-pitcher matchups. Trevor Williams had to focus on facing the Mets' lineup on Saturday night, not ace Jacob deGrom. But still …
"I understand that marquee matchup-type mentality," Hurdle said, "whether it's David and Goliath or however you want to set it up."
After beating reigning American League Cy Young Award winner Corey Kluber in his last start, Williams knocked down another ace on Saturday night. Williams fired six scoreless innings, and the Pirates rallied late to beat deGrom in a 5-0 victory before a season-high crowd of 35,900 at PNC Park. The Bucs have won 15 of their last 18 games, pulling themselves into the thick of the National League Wild Card race as Tuesday's non-waiver Trade Deadline approaches.
"When things are going good for us, things are going good from an offensive side and from our side on the bump," Williams said. "We're playing really good ball right now, and you can feel that when you pitch."
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Williams said he circled the date on his calendar when he realized he was matched up against Kluber on Monday night in Cleveland, where he completed a rain-shortened, six-inning shutout. Saturday morning brought similar anticipation.
The Pirates recorded their Major League-leading 12th shutout of the season, and Hurdle believes it's no coincidence that Williams has started half of them. Hurdle recalled the late-2007 performance of then-Rockies pitcher Josh Fogg, who earned the nickname "Dragon Slayer" for somehow beating a string of No. 1 starters during Colorado's run to the postseason. For all his ups and downs this season, Williams also may be developing a reputation -- if not a nickname -- against opposing aces.
Williams memorably threw eight scoreless innings during Rich Hill's extra-inning no-hit bid last August in Pittsburgh. With a big lead, he beat Kluber in his last start. On Saturday, Williams outdueled deGrom, who gave up three runs in seven innings and still ended the night with an MLB-best 1.82 ERA.
"You want to face the league's best. deGrom's definitely one of the best in the league," Williams said. "It's fun two starts in a row, seeing two aces. It's just fun to pitch in those games. … I know that if they get one run across, it could very well be the one that beats us."
After working his way out of jams in the third, fourth and fifth innings, Wiliams needed only 13 pitches to get through the sixth and extend his shutout streak to 17 innings. The right-hander's third straight scoreless start lowered his ERA to 3.89, behind only Jameson Taillon in the Pirates' rotation. Over his last three outings, Williams has allowed 13 hits and eight walks while striking out nine after a nine-start stretch in which he posted a 7.02 ERA.
"I like Trevor going out on the mound," Hurdle said. "If you don't pay attention to him, you're missing something."
Gregory Polanco, who went 3-for-4 on the night, helped break a scoreless tie in the sixth inning. After deGrom struck out Adam Frazier and Starling Marte, Polanco knocked a single to right field and stole second. That put him in scoring position for Colin Moran, who bounced a ground-ball single through the right side of the infield. Polanco pounded the dirt by home plate after sliding home safely.
"It's hard to score a run on him. You see his ERA, it's very low," Polanco said, laughing. "I was just excited, man. Excited. We work so hard for this, and now we're playing good baseball."
The Pirates padded their lead against deGrom in the seventh when David Freese, coming off a five-RBI performance on Friday, slapped a run-scoring groundout to shortstop Amed Rosario. Frazier, who went 3-for-4 against deGrom, then laced an RBI double to right field.
Frazier made a mechanical adjustment with his hands after being optioned to Triple-A, but it took him weeks to regain his timing. Since being recalled on Wednesday, Frazier is 6-for-11 with four doubles.
"I feel like the past week or two, the timing's been there," Frazier said. "Just trying to stay where I'm at."
MOMENT THAT MATTERED
Escape artist: One run was enough for Williams, but he had to work hard to make it that way. Between the third and fifth innings, Williams stranded six runners -- five of them in scoring position. He escaped a two-on, nobody-out spot in the third; a bases-loaded, one-out mess in the fourth; and an almost-pedestrian -- by that point -- two-on, one-out situation in the fifth.
His biggest pitch was to Devin Mesoraco with the bases loaded and one out in the fourth. Mesoraco rolled over an 89.3-mph sinker and grounded into an inning-ending double play.
"I'm not deGrom. I'm not that type of pitcher that he is, but I'm going to try to out-execute him," Williams said. "When I had to execute pitches, I did. … It's just executing pitches with guys on."
The Pirates have won each of their last 13 games when scoring first. Overall this season, they are 39-15 when scoring first and 16-36 when their opponents score first.
Polanco, who doubled twice, leads all NL outfielders with 46 extra-base hits this season. He is 14 extra-base hits shy of the career-high mark he set in 2016.
HE SAID IT
"We talked about it [Friday] night at Faith Night. I asked J-Hay (Josh Harrison) and Jordy Mercer what their favorite moment was as a Buc so far. They said it was the 2013 Wild Card Game, the Cueto game. I spoke up on that. I said I was watching that in my hotel room my first year of pro ball. I just got drafted, and I remember watching that and I said, 'I don't ever want to be a visiting pitcher at PNC Park.' I felt that vibe tonight. The crowd came out. It was fun to see. I hope it continues that way, because we're playing good ball right now and it's encouraging to see all the support from yinzers." -- Williams, on pitching in front of the largest crowd of the season at PNC Park
"It was like [a] 2015 crowd right there. That's why I was so excited. They were loud the whole game. That's what we want to see every day, every night as a player. You want to see the crowd giving you support. It was a great night tonight." -- Polanco, on the atmosphere
The Pirates will wrap up their four-game series against the Mets on Sunday, their last game before Tuesday's 4 p.m. ET non-waiver Trade Deadline. Right-hander Joe Musgrove is scheduled to start for the Pirates against Mets righty Zack Wheeler, who has frequently been mentioned as a trade candidate. First pitch is set for 1:35 p.m. ET.
Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook and read his blog.