AP Sports Writer
PITTSBURGH (AP) — Tony Sanchez’s tiebreaking single scored Starling Marte in the bottom of the seventh to give the Pittsburgh Pirates the lead for good and the Pirates edged Baltimore 9-8 on Wednesday night.
Andrew McCutchen went 3 for 4 with an RBI and his first two extra-base hits in more than two weeks for Pittsburgh, which won for only the third time in its past nine games. Marte and Ike Davis had three hits and two RBIs apiece for the Pirates.
Bryan Morris (4-0) earned the victory after allowing the Orioles to tie the game in the top of the seventh. Mark Melancon worked a perfect ninth for his seventh save.
Nelson Cruz hit his 14th homer of the season and drove in three runs for the Orioles. Nick Markakis, Chris Davis and JJ Hardy had two hits and one RBI apiece but Baltimore left 10 men on base and Ryan Webb (2-1) allowed Sanchez’s sharp single to right in the seventh shortly after the Orioles had rallied to tie the game.
Pittsburgh began the night eight games under .500 in part because of a struggling starting staff that has hardly looked like the group that led the team to the postseason last fall.
Things didn’t get much better, but the bullpen briefly recaptured its touch.
Reliever Vin Mazzaro’s steady hand out of the bullpen played in stark contrast to the mess made by Pittsburgh starter Wandy Rodriguez.
The veteran left-hander has struggled with his command and his conviction all season and did little to convince manager Clint Hurdle he was ready to turn the corner despite being spotted a 4-0 first-inning lead thanks in part to a two-run triple by Marte.
The 35-year-old Rodriguez, in the final year of his contract, promptly gave the big lead away as Cruz led off the second a blistering solo home run and added a two-run double later in the inning to put the Orioles in front.
Rodriguez’s throwing error on a sacrifice bunt attempt by Chris Tillman meant he was only charged with one earned run for his 1 2-3 innings of work, dropping his ERA from 6.84 to 6.75.
Tillman couldn’t take advantage of the reprieve. Coming off a shutout win over Kansas City in his previous start, Tillman only managed to get three outs.
He failed to retire a batter in the second as the first six Pittsburgh batters reached base. Brad Brach came on in relief to get out of the inning, but not until after the Orioles trailed 8-6.
Baltimore scrambled to tie it in the seventh off Morris but the Pirates responded quickly. Marte led off the seventh with a bunt hit, moved to third on a single by Davis and scored when Sanchez sent a Webb offering to right.
NOTES: Pirates closer Jason Grilli could return as early as Saturday. Grilli has been on the disabled list since sustaining a left oblique strain on April 20. He threw 20 pitches in a simulated game on Tuesday without incident … Baltimore manager Buck Showalter said OF Nolan Reimold, still recovering from back surgery last July, will begin participating in extended spring training games but there remains no timetable for his return. … The Orioles sent LHP Wei-Yin Chen back to Baltimore ahead of the team on Wednesday as a precaution due to concerns over weather in Pittsburgh. Chen (5-2, 3.69 ERA) is scheduled to start on Thursday against Cleveland. … The Pirates begin a four-game series with Washington on Thursday. Edinson Volquez (1-4, 4.71) starts for the Pirates against Washington’s Blake Treinen (0-1, 0.77).
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