PITTSBURGH -- Considering any carryover effect of his club's stirring extra-inning victory over the Reds the night before, Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said that mainly depended on one guy."A lot of it will have to do with [Erik] Bedard's outing," Hurdle had said prior to Friday night's game. Momentum was in the right hand. Well, in the left arm of Bedard, who hurled five-hit ball for seven innings as the Bucs kicked off two weeks of Interleague Play and a weekend homestand with a 4-2 victory over the Kansas City Royals. Given a 3-0 lead before his only shaky moments of the game, Bedard walked three and struck out five for his fourth win in 10 decisions while lowering his ERA to 3.59. The win in front of 36,069 in PNC Park was the Pirates' 10th in their last 13 games dating to May 25. No club in the Major Leagues has more since that date. Bedard could not have picked a better time to go as long as seven frames for the first time in eight starts, since April 22. Pittsburgh's bullpen spent itself in Thursday night's 10-inning win, making Bedard's foray deep into the game welcomed.
"It's always nice to go six, seven and help the bullpen," Bedard said. "The biggest thing, you don't want to wear out the bullpen. I try to help out with that."According to Hurdle's intelligence gathering, Bedard threw first-pitch strikes to 20 of 29 batters, and retired 17 batters (of his total of 21 outs) on three pitches or fewer. "He was pretty good tonight," said the Royals' Eric Hosmer. "He was cutting it and running two-seamers in and getting ahead. So he wasn't going to one pitch all the time, he was mixing it up pretty good." "He gave us what we needed, with everyone in the 'pen except [Doug] Slaten throwing [Thursday] night," Hurdle said. "It was good to get seven out of him, to get us to the back end." Jason Grilli followed Bedard to the mound with a scoreless eighth, then Joel Hanrahan, quickly making up for his second blown save in Thursday night's game, hammered down his 16th save. Lovers of taut, pitching-dominated PNC Park games got a timeout at the beginning of this one. The Interleague affair started off with a tone different from anything heard before this season. After three, the Bucs already led 4-2. Thus, there were more runs in the first three innings of this game than were scored in 15 of the Pirates' first 27 home games. If Bedard had any thoughts of getting spoiled by an offensive deluge, he was wrong. The Pirates stopped scoring there -- although they did reach 10 hits, making them 13-0 when hitting into double figures. "Early runs are always good. You want them," Bedard said. "It makes the other team go on the defensive; they take more pitches." Garrett Jones' RBI double in the first and RBI singles by Clint Barmes and Neil Walker in the second endowed Bedard with a 3-0 lead. The run scored on Barmes' single was quite spectacular -- in a train-wreck sort of way. Rod Barajas, starting from second, was waved around by third-base coach Nick Leyva. To further complicate his general lack of speed, Barajas made an unusually wide turn around third -- and was badly beaten by left fielder Alex Gordon's throw. Except, when catcher Humberto Quintero had to go a wee bit up the line to corral the ball, Barajas took the inside lane, flopped about three feet from the plate and, as he skidded by, swiped his pinky atop it.
"I could have got a better read off second base. I should have gone right away. But I didn't," Barajas said. "Once I was rounding third, I heard Nick saying, 'You gotta go! You gotta go!' So, I was going with everything I had. I saw the catcher go to the outside, and I'm like, 'All right, I gotta go to the inside.' I just felt like I really had to tuck the right side of my body in to avoid getting tagged. That's why I kind of rolled the way I did. And I was able to reach out, last second, to get the corner.
"I'm gonna try to do whatever I can to be safe. Obviously, it wasn't a pretty slide. I wanted to just try and make him miss me, try and make him miss me. ... For me, it's anything for a run. ... It ended up working out."
"Pure athleticism in its rarest form," Hurdle said, "from a guy who's been around the block a couple of times. I think that's called a swim move in football, where the defensive line is trying to avoid offensive linemen. It worked; obviously it was a gamble, one I hope we don't take again anytime soon." After the Royals took two bites out of that lead in the third as Yuniesky Betancourt doubled for a run then scored another on Mike Moustakas' single, the Bucs went the unconventional route in the bottom of the inning to regain a two-run edge. Pedro Alvarez doubled with one away and stopped at third on a single by Jose Tabata, who appeared caught with his feet in the cookie jar when he broke for second as Royals starter Luke Hochevar made a pickoff throw to first.
Although the ensuing rundown in which Tabata was erased wasn't very prolonged, it was long enough for Alvarez to find an opening and make his way home."At least Jose was able to stay engaged in the rundown long enough for Pedro to get his best read," Hurdle said. "It was the only option we had. If both teams had it to do over again, they'd like to do it better. We were able to steal a run."
Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. He can also be found on Twitter @Tom_Singer. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.