Bucs Lose To Snakes, Drop 2 of 3
PITTSBURGH – Added to the roster less than an hour before Sunday’s game, Kris Johnson experienced his first major-league pitch, strikeout, at-bat and sacrifice.
Unfortunately for the Pittsburgh Pirates, he also took his first career loss.
Johnson did not allow a run until his sixth inning of relief during his major-league debut, but Adam Eaton’s bloop double in the 16th drove in two runs and helped the Arizona Diamondbacks outlast Pittsburgh 4-2.
“It’s satisfying – I just wish I could have done a little more,” Johnson said.
Johnson is a 28-year-old minor-league veteran of 189 games. He was 10-4 with two saves and a 2.41 ERA in 25 games (20 starts) with Triple-A Indianapolis this season. He was summoned by the Pirates on Sunday because of their weary bullpen.
“Just a fantastic effort for your major-league debut,” Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. “We couldn’t ask him to do any more than he did other than to find a way to win that game.”
Eaton’s career-high fourth hit came during his seventh at-bat, giving Arizona its club-record 13th victory in extra innings this season.
“As long as you want to go, we’ll go with you and stay in a dogfight,” Eaton said. “We’ll play as long as we need to play.”
The Diamondbacks used seven pitchers in a game that lasted 4 hours, 39 minutes. They improved to 13-5 in extra-inning games.
It was Arizona’s 27th victory in its final at-bat, by far the most in the majors. It also was the Diamondbacks’ 36th comeback victory – second-most in the majors – and ninth in as many games when playing beyond nine innings on a so-called “travel day.”
“It can be frustrating when you get into extra innings and don’t come through, but all you can do is keep battling and our guys do that,” Arizona manager Kirk Gibson said.
With A.J. Pollock and Didi Gregorius on base and two outs in the 16th, Eaton fought off a 1-0 pitch from Johnson and dunked the ball into shallow left-center. A sprinting Andrew McCutchen failed in his attempt at a diving catch.
“That ball wasn’t exactly crushed,” Eaton said. “He threw a slider and I tried to stay through it, and good things happen when you put the ball in play.”
The Pirates dropped 2 of 3 to Arizona, losing their third consecutive series.
“We’re playing good baseball; we’re just in a stretch here,” second baseman Neil Walker said. “We need to keep grinding it out and keep playing hard. We’ve played a lot of innings, so it’s taxing us a little bit.”
Pittsburgh lost its third extra-inning game in six days. The Pirates have played 69 innings during that span – the equivalent of almost eight games.
Johnson (0-1) threw 82 pitches in six innings. He had five strikeouts and allowed five hits and two walks.
“It’s a little nerve-racking at first,” Johnson said. “I know we’re in a pennant race and coming into a tie ballgame with the bullpen being taxed recently, I just tried to go as deep as I could. Try to save the bullpen – that was the main thing – and try to keep the team in the ballgame and hopefully we could score some runs at the end.”
That never happened, something that is becoming a recurring theme for Pittsburgh, which had its NL Central lead trimmed to one game on St. Louis. The Pirates have been shut out in the 14 innings they’ve played recently beyond the ninth.
That hasn’t been a problem for Arizona, which remained five games behind Cincinnati in the race for the second NL wild-card spot.
The Diamondbacks (64-58) play their next four games in Cincinnati against the Reds, who are 2 games back of the Pirates in the division race.
Six Arizona relievers combined to pitch eight scoreless innings. Brad Ziegler (7-1) had two strikeouts while pitching perfect 14th and 15th innings, and J.J. Putz worked around two walks – one intentional – in the 16th to earn his sixth save. Johnson struck out swinging to end the game.
Wade Miley limited the Pirates to two runs over eight innings and Aaron Hill went 4 for 7 to extend his hitting streak to 11 games for Arizona.
After Hill’s based-loaded single scored Eaton in the sixth, the Diamondbacks had the bases loaded and no outs with an opportunity take the lead. They tied it at 2 when Gerardo Parra grounded into a double play.
Pirates starter Charlie Morton allowed two runs on seven hits and three walks with six strikeouts.
Tony Watson allowed a single during each of his two innings, but struck out the side in the ninth. Mark Melancon worked a scoreless 10th and has allowed an earned run during just one of his past 26 outings.
The Pirates scored once each in the first and third on RBI doubles from Russell Martin and Jordy Mercer, who had three hits.