Pirates take battle of 'Pens-ylvania yet again

Bucs hang around against strong Lee, strike against Philly relief

Pirates take battle of 'Pens-ylvania yet again

PHILADELPHIA -- If nothing else comes from a four-game series in Philadelphia -- besides three consecutive wins -- the Pirates now know that if their rotation keeps them close, any game is winnable.

For the second time in as many games, the Pirates outlasted a Phillies starter and exposed a weak bullpen as they earned a 6-4 win at Citizens Bank Park on Thursday. Pinch-hitter Garrett Jones hit a two-run double in the eighth to deliver the Pirates the lead for good as they took three of four from their cross-state rival.

"Just the way we stayed after it," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "That's against a very good pitcher that had good stuff. [Phillies starter Cliff Lee] was spotting the ball very well, and we were able to drive the pitch count up and never backed away. On the other side, we never let it get away."

Tony Watson went two innings, allowing one run on two hits to earn his first Major League save, and Justin Wilson earned the win with two clean innings of work in relief of starter James McDonald.

Even more impressive, the Pirates won three consecutive games in which the Phillies sent Cole Hamels, Roy Halladay and Lee to the mound. The three Phillies aces have succeeded each other 18 times since they joined forces, and this was the first time the Phillies lost all three games.

To do so, the Pirates showed great patience, especially while trailing, and worked their way into the Phillies' bullpen. It's a tough task against Lee, who leads the league with more than 70 percent of his pitches thrown for strikes, but that's how the Pirates eventually forced him from the game.

"It feels good, it's just a confidence booster as a team," said Jones, who has hit .400 (10-for-25) in his career with the bases loaded with four doubles and 28 RBIs. "Our baseball team has been good, quality baseball. Our bullpen has kept us in games, and us never giving up and always knowing we're in the game.

"I think [the Phillies' bullpen] tried to pitch around and get us to chase. We waited for a pitch to hit, and that's what you need to do. That's what got us a win today -- be patient and wait for your pitch, and then be aggressive when that pitch comes."

Tied at 3, Clint Barmes reached first when he was hit by a Phillippe Aumont offering with one out in the eighth. Travis Snider followed with a single into left, through a hole opened by putting Barmes on the move. Starling Marte followed with a single through the left side to load the bases for Jones, who pinch-hit for Brandon Inge, the clutch hitter from Pittsburgh's past two wins.

Jones hit a 3-1 pitch over the head of Phillies right fielder John Mayberry for a two-run double to give the Pirates a 5-3 lead. The double ended the afternoon for Aumont, who registered just one out in place of Lee. Marte then scored on a lineout to right by Gaby Sanchez off of reliever Chad Durbin, and even without setup man Mark Melancon and closer Jason Grilli, the Pirates were in the driver's seat as Watson worked the final two innings.

"I approached it the same way I approach any time I come in the game," a low-key Watson said. "If they needed me to go two innings, that's what I was going to do."

McDonald gave the Pirates enough to keep the contest close through his first five innings of work as he allowed just one run on three hits. The Phillies scored two in the sixth, and the Pirates were again looking for a late-inning rally to secure a win.

"In the sixth inning, for whatever reason, the competing and aggression fell off," Hurdle said. "At one point, we thought we may be able to get seven out of [McDonald]. The stuff, for the most part, was crisp, it was on. So to speak to the point, he seems to be making progress."

Kevin Frandsen opened the inning with a walk, and Chase Utley followed with a single through the right side of the infield that moved Frandsen all the way around to third. After Utley stole second, Ryan Howard lined a single into right to score Frandsen for the Phillies' second run of the game.

The Pirates turned to Wilson, who got Laynce Nix to ground the ball to third baseman Pedro Alvarez. For the third time in two games, the contact play -- Utley left third as the ball left the bat -- resulted in an out at the plate for the Pirates and gave them hope of escaping the inning without further damage.

Wilson hurt himself with a wild pitch that allowed both Howard and Nix to advance before Domonic Brown slashed a line drive into center. The ball knuckled a bit, forcing Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen to a knee to make the catch. Howard rumbled home from third for the final run of the inning, giving the Phillies a 3-1 lead.

But again, these are the 2013 Pirates, and they quickly responded in the top of the seventh against Lee.

Lee held the Pirates at bay for the first six innings and had a manageable runner at first with two out in the seventh. McCutchen singled through the left side to move Marte to second. Sanchez followed with a bloop single into left-center to pull the Pirates within a run.

Phillies manager Charlie Manuel made his way to the mound, but after a discussion with Lee and the infield, elected to stay with his veteran left-hander over his bullpen options. Lee got ahead in the count, but Michael McKenry responded with a single into center to tie the game at 3.

"I've told you guys, I've got my hands full managing one club," Hurdle said. "I just wait to see what they are going to do and act accordingly."

Mike Radano is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.