J.A. Happ did it again, pitching six scoreless innings for a third straight terrific start, as the Bucs took their series opener against the Marlins before a small and Pirate-friendly crowd in Miami on Monday, 5-2.
Happ struck out six and walked one, mostly getting outs with his fastball. He threw 94 pitches, 67 for strikes. Since he returned to the rotation August 14, he's allowed one run in 17.1 innings. As deadline acquisitions go, it would be pretty much impossible to ask for more, particularly given how little was expected when he arrived.
Meanwhile, the Pirates got two in the third when Gregory Polanco and Starling Marte each singled and came home on Andrew McCutchen's double into the corner. The Bucs missed an opportunity when Jung-Ho Kang grounded into a bases-loaded double play with no outs in the fifth, and they didn't score again until the seventh, when Marte got hit, moved up on Brian Ellington's wild pitch, moved up again on a fly ball, and came home on Neil Walker's sacrifice fly.
The Marlins finally scored in their half of the inning as Jared Hughes allowed a double to Marcell Ozuna, who came home two batters later on a groundout. But the Bucs tacked on a fourth run as Sean Rodriguez got hit on a fastball by Erik Cordier (who was promptly ejected) and later scored on Polanco's single. (Polanco, by the way, went 4-for-5 with two doubles.) They got another in the ninth as old friend Bryan Morris couldn't find the strike zone and walked four batters. Antonio Bastardo put two men on to start the ninth, but Mark Melancon came on in relief, only allowing one run to score before getting a double play that was upheld on review.
The win was the Pirates' third straight, and they moved to within three of the Cardinals, who are currently tied 1-1 against Arizona.