Even the worst baseball team can beat the best in a given game, they say. So, for a bad one, starting a good pitcher, to beat a somewhat decent one isn't crazy. In this paranoid world in which the Pirates are expected to do well, though, it isn't very fun.
The Phillies weathered Cole Hamels' one bad inning while the Pirates couldn't overcome Francisco Liriano's, Jeff Francoeur gunned down the potential tying run in Steve Lombardozzi at home plate to end the game and the Bucs lost to the lowly Phils, 3-2.
Both teams strung hits together to score all their runs in the fifth inning.
The Pirates got their two on Andrew McCutchen's clean single to center, which followed singles by Neil Walker and Jordy Mercer and a hit-by-pitch by Josh Harrison.
The Phillies countered in the bottom of the inning against Liriano, who was strong most of the night and finished with six strikeouts versus three walks in seven innings. In the fifth, though, Liriano gave up hits to the first three batters, including a Carlos Ruiz two-run double (helped by a delay and a weak throw by Starling Marte). A Ben Revere groundout and Freddy Galvis single plated two more runs, and that was all the scoring on the night.
Hamels threw 115 pitches to go seven innings with nine strikeouts, one walk and five hits.
The Pirates had a chance to tie it in the ninth. Francisco Cervelli led off with a walk and Lombardozzi, a pinch runner, went to third on an errant Jonathan Papelbon pickoff throw. Jordy Mercer popped out to Francoeur in shallow foul territory for the second out, and Lombardozzi tagged up. Usually I'm OK with forcing the outfielder to make a play, but that's about the only thing Francoeur is still useful for on a baseball field. Lombardozzi was a dead duck for the game's final out, with Jung-Ho Kang left on deck.
A couple more thoughts:
-- The Pirates used a right-handed-heavy lineup against the lefty Hamels, but Kang wasn't part of it.
Clint Hurdle opted to start Walker, Mercer and Harrison over Kang, which is understandable, particularly if you want to play the hot hand after Harrison homered on Tuesday. But Hurdle also took Corey Hart and Sean Rodriguez over Kang, who could have played third with Harrison shifting to right field.
Hart and Rodriguez finished a combined 0-for-6 with five strikeouts.
-- I found it strange that Hart was in right and Rodriguez was on first. Rodriguez is speedier and, though not a natural outfielder, I imagine he'd have better range in right than Hart at this point. I'd also guess that's more useful than having Rodriguez's agility over Hart's at first.
I wondered about this even before Galvis' go-ahead single dropped just in front of Hart. It's impossible to say whether Rodriguez (or Gregory Polanco or anybody else) would have gotten to it, but, well ... maybe Rodriguez would have gotten to it.