The Pirates won 9-8 Wednesday in remarkable fashion, grabbing a 4-0 lead in the first, then watching Wandy Rodriguez cough up six runs in a miserable top of the second inning before storming back to score four more in the bottom of the inning. The first two innings lasted over an hour and a half.
Josh Harrison led off the home half of the first with a walk, then came home on Andrew McCutchen's double. Pedro Alvarez then singled, and Starling Marte brought home both runners with a triple to right. Ike Davis then cashed in Marte with a single.
In the second, though ... Nelson Cruz hit a leadoff homer, and J.J. Hardy and Jonathan Schoop followed him with hits of their own. Two batters later, Chris Tillman laid down a sacrifice bunt and ended up safe on Rodriguez's throwing error. Nick Markakis then brought home a run with a sacrifice fly, and Manny Machado brought in another with a double. Rodriguez walked Adam Jones, and then Chris Davis hit not a monster home run but an infield single to bring home Tillman. Then Cruz -- and this is still in the second inning, remember -- hit a ball toward third that bounced off the bag and into the outfield. That brought home two runs, and the Pirates finally replaced Rodriguez with Vin Mazzaro, who struck out Hardy to finally end the inning.
There was some bad luck in there, but Rodriguez was, yet again, horrible overall, and it wouldn't be a surprise if he disappeared onto the disabled list for a while longer so the Pirates can take a look at Brandon Cumpton or Jeff Locke in their rotation. At this point, they have little to lose.
Anyway, after Rodriguez somehow managed to erase a four-run, first-inning lead, the Pirates fought back with four runs, mostly the product of a series of singles, in the bottom half of the second to make it 8-6. (Whatever problems with hitting with runners in scoring position the Pirates have had recently, they didn't have them tonight.)
Mazzaro took over from there and restored something like normalcy, pitching 3.1 quiet innings, striking out three and walking two but without allowing a hit. Meanwhile, Brad Brach pitched four scoreless frames for the Orioles. Justin Wilson pitched a scoreless sixth, then allowed a leadoff double to Davis in the seventh.
At that point, the Pirates replaced Wilson with Bryan Morris, who was awful, giving up a series of singles and a walk. Hardy's RBI single got the Orioles within one, and then, three batters later, Steve Pearce singled to right to tie the game. Luckily for Morris, Josh Harrison threw a strike to get Hardy easily.
Morris clearly has good stuff, probably better stuff than he had last year, but he still isn't a good pitcher -- the command and the strikeouts aren't there. He shouldn't be pitching in high-leverage situations, and the Pirates ought to consider working Mazzaro into those seventh-inning-type outings, at least until he proves he can't handle them. Hopefully Jason Grilli will return at full strength and give the Pirates a bit more flexibility to allow Morris to pitch in fewer important spots.
Anyway, Marte and Ike Davis singled in the bottom of half of the inning, and Tony Sanchez brought Marte home with a ground-ball single. Tony Watson and Mark Melancon took over from there, and the Pirates held on for a strange 9-8 win, despite the best efforts of Rodriguez and Morris. McCutchen, Ike Davis and Marte all had three hits (with two of Marte's coming on bunts) as the Pirates batted 8-for-14 with RISP.