Pirates Defeat Royals, Move Within A Game Of First Place

June 9, 2012; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Kansas City Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer (35) slides safely into second with a double as Pittsburgh Pirates shortstop Clint Barmes (12) waits for the throw during the fourth inning at PNC Park. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-US PRESSWIRE

The Pirates continued their winning ways in beating the Royals 5-3 Saturday night. Also, the Reds lost to the Tigers, so the Bucs moved to within a game of the top spot in the NL Central.

James McDonald walked Alex Gordon in the third and then allowed a two-run bomb to Yuniesky Betancourt. The Bucs missed a good chance to score in the third when they put runners on second and third with one out, but Andrew McCutchen and Garrett Jones grounded out. Then in the fourth, Eric Hosmer doubled and pitcher Vin Mazarro singled him in to make it 3-0.

The Bucs weren't read to pack it in, though. Pedro Alvarez led off the bottom of the inning with a walk, and then Mazarro hit Jose Tabata with a pitch. Rod Barajas singled to load the bases. Then Clint Barmes hit an infield single to bring home a run. The Bucs got another run on an error by catcher Brayan Pena on a strange play -- pinch-hitter Matt Hague hit a fly ball and newbie right fielder Eric Hosmer let it fall in front of him. The ball looked like it would be caught, so Tabata was stuck at third until it dropped. Hosmer then threw home and would have made a very bizarre force out, but Pena juggled the ball.

Anyway, returning to the action in the bottom of the fourth, Alex Presley hit another RBI infield single. Then Neil Walker and Garrett Jones each brought home a run by grounding out. That's five (!) runs even though the Pirates didn't exactly put up an offensive explosion. Somewhere in 2002, a stathead is gloating to a friend about the good things that happen when you just don't make outs.

The Pirates pinch-hit for McDonald in that long inning, so Chris Resop came on to pitch after that. Jared Hughes threw 2.1 innings later in the ballgame to collect the win, as the Pirates' bullpen pitched five scoreless innings. I liked Clint Hurdle's decision to remove McDonald -- he threw 76 pitches in those four frames, and didn't look good at all, struggling greatly with his command.

Great uniforms in this one, by the way -- I love the visiting Monarchs unis. Also, I really liked the interviews with Sunday starters A.J. Burnett and Bruce Chen, both because they were good interviews and also because they took place in what turned out to be really bad innings for their respective teams. Burnett was on when Betancourt blasted his homer, and then Chen was on (and was getting pelted by his teammates with what appeared to be sunflower seeds) while the Pirates were starting their five-run fourth.

One more little aside: The FOX announcers talked about the disadvantages AL teams face while playing interleague games on the road, and actually suggested that a good solution would be to just have the DH when AL teams play in NL parks. Regular readers know I'm actually a fan of the DH, but my immediate response to this proposal was a burst of colorful language. It's obviously never occurred to these guys that NL teams face a disadvantage when playing in AL parks as well, because there's no reason for them to have a slugger who can't field (Billy Butler cough) lying around. Meanwhile, the stupid things we've seen the Royals do this series have mostly been self-inflicted. Playing in an NL park doesn't force AL teams to play guys out of position. That's just something a dumb AL team does because it's never considered that maybe it would be better to just give Billy Butler a few days off than to start someone in right field who's never played there before, and to start someone at first base who never plays there.

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