Bucs move into tie for 1st behind Williams' gem

May 16th, 2018

PITTSBURGH -- Last week, the Pirates needed to stage two big comebacks to sweep the White Sox in Chicago. With their lineup clicking and rolling, there was no need to come from behind on Tuesday night.

's leadoff home run sparked the Bucs' four-run first inning against White Sox starter , and they kept piling on from there. It was more run support than they needed to provide Williams, who struck out six over seven innings in the Pirates' Major League-leading seventh shutout, a 7-0 win at PNC Park.

With the Brewers' loss to the D-backs, the Pirates are tied with Milwaukee atop the National League Central. Pittsburgh has won six of its last seven games.

"It's definitely fun baseball," said Josh Bell, who hit a pair of doubles and drove in three runs. "Once they start rolling, you let out that sigh of relief earlier and earlier. When it comes in the first inning like that, you can kind of coast. … Especially the way Trevor's pitching. It just takes the pressure off you and allows you to do more damage at the plate."

The Pirates did plenty of damage in the first, hitting Lopez hard from the start. Frazier blasted the second pitch he saw into the right-field seats for a leadoff homer. singled to right. doubled to left, and Bell banged a two-run double to right. chipped in with a two-out double to drive in Bell and cap the Pirates' big inning.

"We didn't miss pitches," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "Once it started the way it did, our confidence jumped."

The Pirates didn't let up in the second inning. After Polanco drew a two-out walk, -- replacing the injured Marte -- laced an RBI triple off the wall in left-center field. Bell smacked another double to bring home Rodriguez. The Pirates chased Lopez, who threw 7 1/3 strong innings last week against them in Chicago, after he allowed six runs while recording only six outs.

"We caught a young pitcher having some tough times out there for the first time in probably a long time," Hurdle said. "The kid's pitched really, really well. Then we kept coming after him and kept pushing the at-bat on him."

Williams, meanwhile, bounced back from an outing marred by a pair of two-run homers and made arguably his best start of the season. The right-hander leaned heavily on his fastball, utilizing it up in the strike zone to counter Chicago's aggressive swings.

"I don't light up the radar gun, so I'm sure their eyes get big when they see 92 [mph]," Williams said. "Some guys will take big swings and they'll go for the home run. That's how their ballpark plays. They play for the big inning. So we took advantage of that and executed at the top of the zone."

The White Sox didn't put a runner in scoring position until the fourth inning. Williams had to grind through longer frames in the fifth and sixth, but he breezed through a four-pitch seventh to finish the night.

Nine starts into the season, Williams owns a 2.72 ERA that ranks 11th among qualified National League starters. He's also developed a reputation as Pittsburgh's most consistent starter. Six of his nine outings have been quality starts, and he's only allowed more than three runs once.

"It was a really strong effort, I thought -- a really good back-on-track outing for him," Hurdle said.


Run it up: Bell said Frazier "sets the standard" atop the lineup, so his home run -- his third of the season and the Pirates' third leadoff long ball -- was a good omen. Hurdle was more impressed with what came afterward, though. The Pirates hit two homers off Lopez last week, but they only had one other hit. Tuesday night wasn't quite so all-or-nothing, as they proved in the first inning.

After Frazier's homer, Polanco got ahead in the count and punched a changeup into right field. Marte and Bell doubled to make it a 3-0 game. That put a charge into the Pirates' dugout.

"That's when I felt it," Hurdle said. "To follow up with what we did after that, I thought, was just as important."


The Pirates have scored 208 runs this season, the franchise's highest total through 41 games since the World Series-winning club in 1960 scored 216 runs in their first 41 games.


"We have the capability to do some good things. We've connected the dots in this lineup a lot of different ways. By the same token, you have two players leave the game tonight. So I don't think there's any time to get big-chested and start beating on it right now. You've got to show up tomorrow and you've got to figure out another way to beat these guys."--Hurdle, on the Pirates lineup's success despite injuries Tuesday to Marte and

• Marte, Cervelli exit with injuries vs. Sox


With two outs in the sixth inning, Frazier was hit by a pitch that ended reliever Chris Beck's night. In came left-hander , who served up a hard-hit double to Polanco. Frazier wheeled around third base and slid home to score. The White Sox challenged the call, but the ruling on the field was upheld and Polanco was awarded an RBI.


is set to start against the White Sox at PNC Park at 12:35 p.m. ET on Wednesday. He registered five strikeouts over three innings against the Giants at home last Friday before being pulled due to a cut on the middle finger of his right hand. Left-hander will start for Chicago.