Held to two hits, Pirates spoil Bedard's gem

Held to two hits, Pirates spoil Bedard's gem

Held to two hits, Pirates spoil Bedard's gem
PITTSBURGH -- It's July, according to the calendar. But the game at PNC Park on Monday seemed more like one from April.

Facing the Cubs, Pirates starter Erik Bedard turned in a spectacular start, just as he'd made a habit of doing at the beginning of the season. And in the same way they kicked off 2012, the Bucs' bats were silent, managing just two hits, including one against starter Jeff Samardzija, who worked eight innings.

Hits were nearly as difficult to come by as runs on Monday night. In a battle that Fergie Jenkins and John Candelaria would have appreciated, the visiting Cubs won the series opener, 2-0, before 27,586 fans at PNC Park.

"You saw two guys out there with their pencil sharpeners," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "I think you saw two different types of domination off the mound."

The defeat snapped a five-game winning streak for the Pirates. It marked the first time they had been shut out since June 15. The Bucs have been blanked seven times this season.

The first Pirates batter to record a hit was Andrew McCutchen, who reached on an infield single in the fourth inning. He hustled down the line and beat Samardzija (7-8), who was late breaking for the bag. Pittsburgh's other hit came in the ninth, which pinch-hitter Josh Harrison led off with another infield single, this one against reliever Carlos Marmol, who closed the game and notched his 12th save in 14 chances.

Samardzija struck out five Pirates and walked one.

"He was just getting us out," McCutchen said of the opposing starter. "It happens to the best of us."

"That was, no doubt, the best stuff he's had," Cubs manager Dale Sveum added. "He had his two-seamer working, kept the ball down, elevated when he wanted, had his split working, his slider, could get back in the count with his slider."

Samardzija, though, was just a touch more effective than Bedard, who limited the visitors to two hits and one run over seven innings. He struck out 11 batters and walked two.

"Our guy, boy, he got in a rhythm somewhere between the second and third inning," Hurdle said of Bedard. "It was fun to watch him go to work, too, with the fastball-curveball-changeup combination. But the breaking ball became very effective. A very well-pitched game by both starters tonight. Very well pitched."

After issuing a leadoff walk, Bedard retired the next nine batters. His only other walk came in the fourth, allowing Starlin Castro to reach base. Two batters later, Alfonso Soriano ripped a double into the gap between McCutchen and Garrett Jones. Castro scored, but Soriano advanced no further.

With Tony Watson pitching in the ninth, Soriano shot a ball into the same gap for another run-scoring double, thereby doubling Chicago's lead. As in the fourth inning, Castro was the runner to cross the plate. He led off with a single to center off Chris Resop.

That run was the first Pittsburgh's bullpen had surrendered in 14 2/3 innings.

Bedard's strikeout total tied a season high. The southpaw has now turned in quality starts in back-to-back outings, including a July 17 outing against the Rockies. In his five previous appearances, Bedard had gone 0-4 with a 9.14 ERA.

"He made pitches," Hurdle said. "That's another good game on top of the game that he pitched in Colorado, so obviously, he ought to be feeling much better about himself."

Dealing with the Cubs on Monday, Bedard was aided by an effective curveball.

"I was just throwing it for strikes and trying to get ahead of guys," Bedard said. "They were just swinging at it. When you throw it for strikes, sometimes when you go lower, they swing at it."

Before the game, Hurdle talked about how Bedard has benefited from undergoing three recent side sessions with pitching coach Ray Searage and re-examining earlier parts of the season.

"Basically, it was more to revisit the first weeks of your starts," Hurdle said. "What was effective? What worked well? Look at the next five weeks of your starts. What did you see, if anything, different? Whether it be delivery, angle, sequences, mindset."

After the game, Bedard said he didn't do anything differently. He lowered his ERA from 4.55 to 4.32 in the loss.

"He's done pretty well his past few starts," McCutchen said. "He's been doing a good job. He did a great job. [It's tough] when you've got another pitcher who's doing a great job, too, on the other side. We just couldn't get any runs on the board for him."

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