Things were encouraging for awhile as the Bucs and Twins battled through the cold and snow at PNC Park on Wednesday, but everything fell apart in the top of the sixth as the Pirates’ defense and relief corps stumbled and bumbled their way through four Twins runs that proved to be decisive, as visiting Minnesota split the series with a 7-3 victory.
The Pirates jumped out to a 2-0 first inning lead off Twins’ starter Jake Odorizzi (who would last only 4 1⁄3 innings) when Josh Harrison led off with a double and came around on Josh Bell’s monster blast that hit halfway up the batter’s eye in center field, his first homerun of the season.
Ivan Nova was making typical quick work of the opposition until the third inning Brian Dozier bounced a high fly off the top of the wall in the leftfield corner for his fourth homer. Miguel Sano led off the fourth lining a dou8ble off the top of the Clemente Wall in right, and trotted home with the tying run two batters later on Eduardo Escobar’s sac fly.
The Pirates took the lead again in the fourth. Corey Dickerson led off with a line single to right but appeared to be out on an attempted steal of second - but the umpire signaled safe and the Twins failed to challenge. After advancing to third ona grounder, Dickerson scored on Colin Moran’s soft line drive hit past the drawn in infield.
They had another chance to extend their lead in the fifth. Gregory Polanco and Starling Marte walked to chase Odorizzi, and with two outs Dickerson lined a single to left. Polanco rounded third so roundly that he ended up in the logo halfway to the dugout and was nailed at home by Eddie Rosario’s throw. It was downhill from there.
Dozier led off the sixth drawing a rare walk from Nova then went to second on a wild pitch. Rosario then hit a high popup that catcher Cervelli lost in the snow filled sky and which dropped to the ground between Nova and first baseman Bell. Meanwhile Rosario had been standing at home plate watching his hit fall fair ten feet in front of him. Bell first looked at third, then soft tossed a throw to Harrison covering first to easily get the batter Rosario, but Dozier beat the return throw to third. With the tying run at third with one out, Pirates’ manager Clint Hurdle chose to play the infield in and Sano hit the first pitch sharply on the ground to rightfielder Polanco, driving in the run. Then Logan Morrison lined a double to rightfielder Polanco, driving in Sano from first base, despite an apparent spring speed of 10 feet per second. That chased Nova, but Dovydas Neverauskus, but Escobar greet him with a line drive double to rightfielder Polanco, driving in another run. An out later Byron Buxton grounded a double inside third to make it 7-3 and Neverauskus was done for the night.
Over their final four frames the Pirates batters sleepwalked through a collection of Twins relievers, but an encouraging sign was the three innings provided by the Pirates troubled hurler Tyler Glasnow. When not being squeezed by the home plate umpire or being denied on video review of an obvious pickoff at first base, Glasnow’s fastball sat at 96 to 97 with good cutting action, as he racked up five K’s vs only two walks and two hits, with a single run allowed, in those three innings.
The Cincinnati Reds come to Pittsburgh for four games, the next three scheduled for similar bitter cold evenings.