SAN DIEGO -- Before he even took the mound at Petco Park, Joe Musgrove knew Friday night would be different. Just how different became apparent as Musgrove warmed up in the bullpen with catcher Elias Diaz … and about 50 of his friends standing close by.The noise and pressure didn't
SAN DIEGO -- Before he even took the mound at Petco Park, Joe Musgrove knew Friday night would be different. Just how different became apparent as Musgrove warmed up in the bullpen with catcher Elias Diaz … and about 50 of his friends standing close by.
The noise and pressure didn't bother Musgrove. His homecoming was also a return to form.
Making his first career start in his native San Diego, Musgrove fired seven scoreless innings and led the Pirates to a 6-3 win over the Padres. Pittsburgh reached the midway point of the season with a 39-42 record, and Musgrove brought the Bucs there with a memorable outing in his hometown.
"That was a big driving force behind my ability to pitch tonight," Musgrove said. "I feel like I've always done well in front of my family and friends, and that's something that kind of takes me to that next level."
Musgrove grew up watching the Padres play at Qualcomm Stadium and Petco Park. He and Pirates left-hander Steven Brault, who took the mound after Musgrove, played together at Grossmont High School in El Cajon, about 20 minutes from where they stood Friday night. Once a fan in the stands, Musgrove took center stage on the mound as he struck out five in front of a crowd of 27,083 that included his parents, sister, grandparents, aunts and uncles, high school friends and former coaches.
At least 100 people in the crowd were there for Musgrove. About 75 of them stuck around even after Felipe Vazquez recorded the final out, gathering around Musgrove near the visitor's dugout.
"Every time I take another step, I'm getting called from different directions," Musgrove said. "I was trying to just block it out for the most part, but I was also trying to acknowledge the people that were here."
Musgrove tried to treat Friday like any other start. He had breakfast, rented scooters and rode around downtown with one of his best friends. When it was time to pitch, Musgrove wasn't perfect. But he was effective as he allowed seven hits, all singles, and walked two while completing seven innings for the third time in seven starts this season. It was a step in the right direction for Musgrove, who gave up 11 runs over his last two starts, both losses.
"I'm happy with the result, but I wasn't all that happy with the way I threw the ball," he said. "I made some good pitches here and there, but it wasn't very consistent."
The resurgent Pirates lineup gave Musgrove plenty of breathing room by building a six-run lead against Padres left-hander Eric Lauer. After scoring eight total runs during a five-game losing streak, the Bucs have averaged five runs per night while winning three of their last four games.
They did it Friday night with a mix of hard contact, aggressive baserunning and a little bit of good luck. The performance was in some ways reminiscent of the Pirates' success earlier this season, when they featured one of the Majors' highest-scoring lineups.
"It does resemble it a little bit in the way that, when we were winning, every night was a different way to win," said Josh Harrison, who went 2-for-4 with a run. "It's nice to put runs up tonight in a lot of different ways."
The ball bounced their way early on. Josh Bell singled and scored on a passed ball in the first inning. In the third, Bell hit an RBI double to left that bounced about three feet in front of the plate. Diaz then hit a potential double-play grounder up the middle with one out, but shortstop Freddy Galvis' errant flip to second base allowed Bell to score.
Then came the hard contact. Gregory Polanco, who beat the shift with a bunt single in his first at-bat, ripped a two-run double to right field off Lauer before running into the final out of the inning at third. Jordy Mercer picked up where Polanco left off, crushing his fifth homer of the season to center field in the fourth inning.
"We've got a team that's got the right parts," manager Clint Hurdle said. "We just need to keep playing like we've got nothing to lose."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
For the fans: Musgrove's final inning was his toughest. Austin Hedges led off with a single and took third on pinch-hitter Hunter Renfroe's single to left. After a mound visit, Musgrove got Travis Jankowski to pop out to Mercer. Manuel Margot then slapped a grounder to third baseman David Freese, who started a crisp, inning-ending double play.
"They've got first and third, no one out, and all I can think about was the people that are here watching me and how I'd love to get out of this and put on a little bit of a show for them," Musgrove said. "It was really cool. It was special."
Polanco is hitting .464 (13-for-28) with a .583 on-base percentage over his last 11 games. Polanco also leads the Pirates with a .922 OPS in June. Overall this month, the right fielder is batting .283 (17-for-60) with three homers, four doubles, 15 RBIs, 11 walks and 16 strikeouts.
HE SAID IT
"I know what those emotions are like. You want to play well. I said, 'Man, just have fun.' It was cool to see him go out and pitch the way that he did tonight and come up with a knock and a hard slide at second."--Harrison, a Cincinnati native, on his advice for Musgrove before his hometown start
"We are aware and we continue to talk about playing the game the way we need to play the game. What's going to happen is going to happen. It's not about feeling our way through things. We need to go out there and cut it loose and go. That's what we've talked about. … We never need to be a team that's afraid to make a mistake. We've got to play full throttle with what we have, the skill-sets that we have."--Hurdle, on seeing the Pirates play with confidence
San Diego native Trevor Williams will make his first career start at Petco Park in front of more than 50 friends and family members - including his father, Richard, and brothers Trent and Tanner -- on Saturday night. Left-hander Joey Lucchesi will start for the Padres at 10:10 p.m. ET.
Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook and read his blog.