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Musgrove rebounds with dominant outing

Bucs righty allows just 1 hit in seven scoreless
@adamdberry
May 15, 2019

PHOENIX -- After giving up eight runs in three innings on Thursday night in St. Louis, his second straight ugly outing, Joe Musgrove stood in front of his locker and spoke with calm, unwavering confidence. “I don’t feel like this is going to be a trend for me,” Musgrove said

PHOENIX -- After giving up eight runs in three innings on Thursday night in St. Louis, his second straight ugly outing, Joe Musgrove stood in front of his locker and spoke with calm, unwavering confidence.

“I don’t feel like this is going to be a trend for me,” Musgrove said then. “I feel like I’m going to turn things around.”

Box score

Indeed, those last two starts looked like just a bump in the road after his performance on Tuesday night at Chase Field. Musgrove held the D-backs to one hit and two walks over seven innings -- and needed only 75 pitches to do so -- while Josh Bell once again provided the power with two homers and four RBIs in Pittsburgh’s 6-2 win over Arizona.

“To have back-to-back tough ones like I’ve had, it’s really easy to mentally break down and start searching for stuff that’s not there and try to create excuses and stuff,” Musgrove said Tuesday. “It’s a long season. After the first tough outing that I had, you try to move on and keep working and fix the things that need to be fixed.”

Musgrove put in plenty of work in the brief time between starts. He specifically focused on how he was transferring his body weight to create power in his delivery. He felt strong from the start, and he performed at his efficient best against a D-backs club that racked up nine runs the night before.

Musgrove utilized his four-seam fastball and cutter against an Arizona lineup laden with right-handed hitters, firing pitches down and away to record quick outs. His average four-seamer velocity entering the night, according to Statcast, was 91.5 mph. That average ticked up to 92.7 mph Tuesday night.

“I’m being more efficient with when I’m exerting my power,” Musgrove said. “Sometimes you try harder and you get less. Sometimes you do less and you get more. I feel like that was the case tonight.”

Musgrove quickly cut through Arizona’s lineup, never facing more than four batters in one inning. After walking a career-high five batters in his last start, he walked only two while striking out five. The only hit he allowed came in the fourth inning, when Eduardo Escobar hit a leadoff single to left. After David Peralta lined out to center field, Musgrove forced Adam Jones to hit into an inning-ending double play.

“He knows himself pretty well,” manager Clint Hurdle said of Musgrove. “He knew what he needed to do to make the adjustment, and he did it. You’ve got to give the man some room to work, give him some freedom to work every once in a while.”

The Pirates needed Musgrove to step up while they were without starters Jameson Taillon and Chris Archer earlier this month, but the 26-year-old right-hander uncharacteristically struggled in his first two starts of the month. After putting together a 1.54 ERA in April, Musgrove allowed 15 runs (13 earned) while completing only 5 2/3 innings over his two previous starts.

His recent work, combined with his start looming Sunday in San Diego, led Hurdle to end Musgrove’s night after only seven innings despite his limited pitch count. It had been more than two weeks since Musgrove worked into the seventh inning, and only once in his career -- last July 15 -- has Musgrove thrown a pitch in the eighth inning of a start.

Musgrove wanted to try to complete the game, but he understood the move.

“I respect that decision,” Musgrove said. “I would have loved to stay out there and keep going, but with a six-run lead, there’s no need to stress it. Save those innings for later in the year.”

The victory snapped the Pirates’ nine-game losing streak against the D-backs. Appropriately enough, rookie shortstop Cole Tucker -- a Phoenix native and D-backs fan growing up -- punctuated the end of their skid here with a solo home run that sent his sizable cheering section into a frenzy.

Tucker couldn’t stop himself from smiling as he took a dream-come-true trot around the bases. He threw up the “I love you” hand signal that his family always uses, shared the same message with veteran mentor Corey Dickerson when he walked into the dugout and beamed the entire time.

“It was nuts, man. I couldn’t even play it cool. I was really trying to, but the 12-year-old in me came out,” Tucker said. “I was smiling and cheesing and laughing around the bases – like, literally, audibly laughing. I couldn’t have drawn it up any better, man. I’ve obviously been not swinging the bat so great, so to do that in this city and this stadium and to help us win tonight was awesome.”

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