The Pirates' shoddy defense opened the door for the Yankees, who smashed a few big home runs and whacked the Bucs, 11-5, on Saturday at PNC Park. The Pirates weathered a five-run Yankees sixth inning to reach a 5-5 tie through six, but Adam Frazier and Andrew McCutchen made key errors as New York scored five more in the eighth.
Felipe Rivero, who had pitched a 1-2-3 seventh, got two quick outs in the eighth, then Frazier couldn't handle Austin Romine's grounder to second. Ronald Torreyes followed with a single.
At this point, with right-handed masher Chris Carter on the Yankees' bench, I was a little surprised to not see righty Daniel Hudson at least ready in the pen. Rivero's a very fine reliever and it's quite possible he's the right play against a slugger of any type, even in a second inning of work. Still, when Clint Hurdle has to make cutesy double-switches to the point he has no bench left in the seventh inning or Josh Bell can't ever play a full game, it was a little puzzling to see him bypass the Hudson option entirely.
Anyway, Carter came on and crushed a Rivero changeup into the Pirates' bullpen for a three-run dinger and an 8-5 New York lead.
McCutchen, proud center fielder, ranged far into left, but he and Gregory Polanco let Jacoby Ellsbury's fly ball to drop. Ellsbury got to third on the play. Antonio Bastardo relieved Rivero and let loose a wild pitch to let Ellsbury score. Back-to-back doubles from Aaron Hicks and Chase Headley added another run.
Bastardo seems to slowly be sliding down, and perhaps eventually off the depth chart, but he gave the fans one more gift in the ninth, letting them witness this fine piece of baseball entertainment from the really-fun-even-for-a-Yankee Aaron Judge.
McCutchen and David Freese hit solo homers in the first and fourth, respectively, and Cutch's sacrifice fly scored Jameson Taillon in the fifth for a 3-0 Pirates lead as Taillon was dealing, not allowing a hit until the fifth.
Taillon ran into trouble in the sixth, though, letting two men on quickly, and Starlin Castro, in case you forgot his early days as a Cub at PNC Park, smacked a three-run homer to left. A Judge double then chased Taillon, who had squandered such a nice start, finishing with four strikeouts, three walks, five hits and four runs in 5 1-3 innings.
Juan Nicasio loaded the bases and and John Jaso, playing right field, misplayed Torreyes' liner and two runs scored for a 5-3 Yankees lead.
The Pirates knotted it back up in the bottom of the fifth thanks to a Francisco Cervelli double and hits from Jordy Mercer and Frazier, all with two outs.
I've been pretty patient with Bastardo, figuring either he'll be OK or he'll eventually make his way out of meaningful innings and a roster spot. (That's also a joke about his pace of work.) The defensive issues, though, are something that figure to stick around a bit. McCutchen is indeed an inferior center fielder and the Pirates currently have no natural outfielder to plug in right. Frazier has a good defensive reputation and I think he'll be OK, despite some memorable errors at the major-league level, but that's only one part of the problem.
The infrequent visitors from the east evened the weekend series, halting a trend of the Pirates sweeping or being swept in every series to date.