PITTSBURGH -- The natural game of one-upmanship in the Pirates' rotation took an interesting turn Monday night.Erik Bedard retired 17 straight D-backs on his way to a 4-0 victory in PNC Park, just one night after A.J. Burnett had retired 18 straight men on his way to a 6-2 victory in Cincinnati. "He pitched exceptional tonight. Can't pitch much better than that," manager Clint Hurdle said after Bedard had pitched the Pirates closer to first place in the National League Central. Bedard's streak ended on a two-out single in the seventh by Paul Goldschmidt, whose attempt to stretch the hit into a double to take the potential tying run into scoring position was cut down on a terrific throw from left fielder Starling Marte. That is as close as Arizona came to spoiling the terrific outing by Bedard, as the veteran lefty allowed two hits in seven innings -- both by Goldschmidt -- with five strikeouts and no walks on 84 pitches. "Like everyone tries to do -- throw strikes, keep the ball down, keep them off balance," Bedard said of the secret to his success. "Throwing strikes with all your pitches always helps you compete." Relayed Hurdle's compliment that his tempo had been "very, very good," Bedard flashed that patented wry grin of his and said, "When there aren't a lot of baserunners, your tempo is always good." As if the lack of baserunners was coincidental, not a product of his mastery. This had to be one of the most satisfying starts for Bedard, who in three of the last four Augusts would have his arm in a cast by now, not in a box score. "I haven't been in August for a while," he nodded. "Just to be healthy is nice. To pitch well in August ... it's something I've always wanted." Bedard didn't have a lot of breathing room Monday night. It was a 1-0 game until the Pirates, with the considerable help of Arizona's leaky defense, added three runs in the eighth following Bedard's departure. Until then, only Andrew McCutchen's daring, instincts and legs stood between Bedard and prospects of another unrewarded effort. McCutchen's leadoff single off Wade Miley in the fourth turned into a run because Arizona center fielder Chris Young failed to heed a warning recently issued by Hurdle. "The league knows that with Andrew's speed, there's no room for error when he hits the ball," Hurdle had said. This time, there was room for two errors. Young, taking his eyes off the ball to keep them on McCutchen making the turn at first, muffed it for No. 1. "Just instinct," McCutchen said. "I see him drop it, and then he still couldn't find it, so by that time, I'm just going to go." As he bore down on second, shortstop Willie Bloomquist let the eventual throw eject out of his glove for No. 2. "The throw would've gotten me, if the infielder had gotten it, I would've been out," McCutchen said. "There was a risk to it, but I was able to get from one bag to another." As the ball caromed away from Bloomquist, McCutchen instantly popped up and continued on to third, flashing a wide grin toward his dugout. "It was definitely a good part of the game. It started us off, and we were able to play some small ball and get one run in, something we really needed," McCutchen said. Gaby Sanchez's infield grounder promptly delivered him home from third. Sanchez finished 2-for-4. "We weren't doing a whole lot to there," McCutchen said, "so definitely it got us going. Get the one run on the board, let Bedard kind of breathe, get him an opportunity to go out and pitch." Bedard protected that slim lead for three more innings, then let Jason Grilli and Chad Qualls close it out with a hitless inning apiece. Qualls' perfect ninth completed a successful PNC Park debut for four new Pirates. The fifth, Wandy Rodriguez, gets his turn in starting Thursday's finale of this four-game set with the D-backs. Marte went 1-for-3, besides providing that spot-on seventh-inning throw that elicited the 24,213 fans' cheers and Goldschmidt's props. "Obviously he's got a really good arm," Goldschmidt said. "I didn't realize it was that good. He also made a good play on it." McCutchen also had a single in a three-run eighth, finishing with a 2-for-4 night that lifted his MLB-best average to .369. Travis Snider was a late entry and contributed an RBI single to that rally. The veteran Bedard and the rookie Miley are eight years apart, but until McCutchen sprang into action, there was nothing separating them on the field. Each allowed one runner into scoring position, although Bedard's jam was tighter after Goldschmidt began the second with a double. Three consecutive outs without the ball leaving the infield took care of that threat. "He was throwing strikes and getting ahead. He was mixing it up, he was throwing four pitches," Goldschmidt said of Bedard. "Two-seamer away to righties, cutter in, changeup, his curveball to both sides of the plate. So he was able to throw all four for strikes and keep guys off-balance." Bedard took it upon himself to get the first hit off Miley, a two-out single in the third, and advanced to second on Marte's bloop single. Harrison grounded out to end that opportunity. Miley allowed six hits and an unearned run in six innings, with one walk and two strikeouts.
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.