Pirates 4, Mariners 1

Maybe Jeanmar Gomez should be given short notice every time he
pitches.

The Pittsburgh right-hander tossed five shutout innings after
being thrust into the starting role less than three hours before
game time, helping the Pirates to a 4-1 victory over the Seattle
Mariners on Tuesday night.

Gomez allowed just two hits, walked two and struck out five
while dropping his ERA to 2.38, heady territory considering that
the team’s primary long reliever had already gone through his usual
pregame routine when manager Clint Hurdle beckoned him to his
office and said he needed somebody to fill in for injured James
McDonald.

The struggling right-hander was placed on the 15-day disabled
list Tuesday after experiencing tightness in his throwing shoulder.
Enter Gomez, acquired in a trade with Cleveland in January. He made
the team as a utility pitcher and is becoming more valuable by the
week.

”It’s really hard because you throw already, you play catch and
you do your workout,” Gomez said. ”But you know if the team needs
me and the manager asks me, I feel ready.”

He certainly looked ready before giving way to Pittsburgh’s
dominant bullpen. The Mariners never got a runner to third base
during Gomez’s 66-pitch effort.

”A guy comes in here at 4 o’clock and you tell him he’s going
to start, to get that effort we were real happy,” Hurdle said.
”He continues to show up and do a very professional job in
whatever we tell him to do.”

Five relievers kept the lead intact, with closer Jason Grilli
delivering a perfect ninth for his major league-leading 13th save
as the Pirates improved to 14-0 when leading after seven innings.
Andrew McCutchen went 4 for 4 with an RBI-double and Garrett Jones
hit a two-run homer in the eighth to pad the lead.

Aaron Harang (1-4) posted his second strong outing, but received
little help from Seattle’s anemic offense. Raul Ibanez provided a
pinch-hit RBI-double in the seventh to pull the Mariners within a
run, but Seattle would get no closer.

”We didn’t have much time to prepare for (Gomez) and everybody
scrambled to do the best they could to get ready,” Seattle manager
Eric Wedge said. ”Be that as it may, the kid pitched a good
ballgame. He had a good sinker, a good slider that he kept sweeping
off the plate. He threw a good ballgame.”

The Pirates traded for Gomez in January hoping the 25-year-old
could find a role on a pitching staff that’s had trouble staying
healthy.

He’s flourished when summoned from out of the blue. Gomez was
pressed into action three batters into the game against St. Louis
last month when starter Jonathan Sanchez was ejected, then took
over Sanchez’s spot last week against Milwaukee after the Pirates
and Sanchez parted ways.

Still, he wasn’t planning on working early Tuesday until the
McDonald informed Hurdle that his right shoulder didn’t feel right.
McDonald has struggled with his command and his velocity all season
and began the day with a 2-2 record and a 5.76 ERA while hardly
looking like the pitcher who nearly made the All-Star team last
summer.

McDonald said his shoulder felt ”cranky” after his previous
start in Milwaukee. He expected it to get better. It didn’t.

Placing McDonald on the disabled list means Gomez likely will
get another chance to start on Sunday in New York.

Seattle came in 7-3 over its last 10 games while trying to erase
a woeful start, but couldn’t find a way to solve Gomez.

The Mariners offered little resistance against Gomez, their only
real push coming with a brief two-out rally in the third when
Michael Saunders singled and former Pirates All-Star Jason Bay
walked. Kyle Seager lined out to left to end the threat and Gomez
exited without letting anyone get to third base.

The Pirates gave Gomez all the offense he would need in the
first inning. Starling Marte led off with a bunt single off Harang
then scored on Travis Snider’s RBI-double. McCutchen followed with
a double to left-center and the Pirates were up 2-0.

McCutchen’s double extended his hot streak. The All-Star center
fielder is now 13 of his last 27 (.481) in his last seven games
while raising his average from .216 to .276.

Harang has endured a difficult start to his 12th season in the
majors, but appears to be turning it around. The 34-year-old picked
up his first win last week against Baltimore and gave up just two
runs over six innings, striking out six to lower his ERA to from
8.68 to 7.30.

”We’ve done our work trying to figure things out and I’ve been
where I need to be in these last two starts,” Harang said.

Ibanez drew the Mariners within 2-1 in the seventh with a double
off Pittsburgh reliever Jose Contreras, but Jones hit his fourth
homer of the year in the eighth and Grilli stayed perfect on save
chances this season.

NOTES: LHP Francisco Liriano appears ready to make his Pirates
debut on Saturday in New York against the Mets. Liriano has been on
the disabled list all season while recovering from a broken right
arm. He signed a two-year contract with the Pirates in the
offseason … The brief two-game set wraps up on Wednesday when
Seattle’s Felix Hernandez (4-2, 1.60) faces Pittsburgh’s A.J.
Burnett (3-2, 2.57). The teams meet again in Seattle in June …
Pittsburgh C Russell Martin was scratched before the game with a
neck issue and is day to day. Replacement Mike McKenry went 0 for
4.