Pirates offense comes to life in big win

Pirates offense comes to life in big win

Pirates offense comes to life in big win
PHILADELPHIA -- The Pirates were dealt the first blow early, when Chase Utley and Carlos Ruiz hit back-to-back homers in the first inning and the 44,057 fans at Citizens Bank Park were pumped up.

But the Bucs battled back right away and started clubbing the ball all over the park. In a game full of hits, mound visits and pitching changes, the Pirates took advantage of a struggling Phillies' bullpen and set a season-high in runs and hits.

"You've got to be able to punch back in this league," manager Clint Hurdle said after the Pirates' 11-7 win on Wednesday night. "I was very proud of the way we responded."

With a win and losses from the Reds and Cardinals on Wednesday, the Bucs are now tied for second place with St. Louis and two games back of first-place Cincinnati.

"We just tried to stay within ourselves and go out, take it inning by inning, get guys on, get some key hits," center fielder Andrew McCutchen said. "And we were able to do that through the course of the game."

Philadelphia used six of its seven relievers to pitch the entire game as a rainout on Friday threw off the pitching rotation's normal schedule. It was a bullpen that entered the game ranked 25th in the Major Leagues with a 4.41 ERA.

The Pirates had absolutely no problem inflating that. They pounded out 14 hits -- three home runs -- and tagged Raul Valdes for three runs, Joe Savery for five and Chad Qualls for three more.

"It kind of backfired," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said. "We got lit up."

Pirates starter James McDonald settled down after the first inning, though he admittedly did not have his best stuff. The 6-foot-4 right-hander surrendered more than three earned runs for the first time in 2012, allowing four runs on six hits in 5 2/3 innings. He was the first Pirates' hurler since 1900 to accomplish that feat in each of his first 14 starts of the year.

Two of the runs charged to McDonald came in the sixth. In the seventh, the tandem of Jared Hughes and Tony Watson gave up three more. With Phillies on first and second and no outs, Hurdle brought in right-hander Brad Lincoln.

Lincoln, in his first appearance out of the bullpen since June 1, threw a full-count slider to Hunter Pence that was outside the strike zone. Pence swung and missed for strike three.

"With a free swinger like Pence you can't just give him a cookie right there," Lincoln said. "He's geared up, he wants to put his team in the lead right there. For me it was live or die. Just go at him and trust that pitch. Fortunately it worked out for me."

Lincoln got Shane Victorino to fly out to bring up pinch-hitter Jim Thome, owner of 609 career home runs. That didn't faze Lincoln, as he struck Thome out on three pitches.

"He's got that bullpen mentality," catcher Mike McKenry said. "He wants to shut the door. He wants to face the best hitters continuously over and over again. That's what makes him special."

The Pirates padded their lead in the eighth. Drew Sutton doubled in a run for the second time in as many nights and Andrew McCutchen hit a two-run homer to put the game out of reach. In his last 45 at-bats, McCutchen has recorded 20 hits and 11 RBIs. He also made a highlight reel catch in center field on Wednesday.

"He's in a very good place as far as the game goes right now," Hurdle said. "We talk about voting for their kid over there behind the plate [Carlos Ruiz] -- and I completely agree -- there's some people here in Philadelphia that maybe after this series will vote for McCutchen as well."

McKenry, who started consecutive games for the first time this season, continued his hot streak on Wednesday. Starting at catcher for the injured Rod Barajas, McKenry went 2-for-4 with the go-ahead three-run home run, a career-high four RBIs, a walk and a run scored.

"That's the beauty of this game," Hurdle said. "Certain guys show up at certain times, you never know when. Nobody's talking about him and now everybody's talking about him."

"Our pitching's been so good all year. They've kind of bailed us out a lot this year. It's time for us to do it for them," said a humble McKenry, who is 7-for-11 with two home runs and six RBIs and didn't have a multi-hit game in 2012 until Monday. "Today we did that."

Jake Kaplan is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.