Bucs' new set-up man holds lead, outfielder Marte gets save
With a perfect throw and a jarring dive, left fielder Starling Marte saved the Pirates' rebuilt bullpen.
Marte threw out a runner at the plate in the ninth inning, then made a diving catch to end it, helping the Pittsburgh Pirates hold on for a 5-4 victory on Friday night that let the new-look bullpen save face its first time out.
''Does he get the save?'' manager Clint Hurdle said.
Might as well. He sure saved them from another dismaying loss at Great American Ball Park, where the Pirates were 0-4 this season. His two plays kept closer Mark Melancon's saves streak intact and allowed Pittsburgh to finish July at 17-9, best in the National League.
Andrew McCutchen hit yet another homer at GABP, connecting off Michael Lorenzen (3-6), and Jung Ho Kang had three doubles and drove in a run to support Jeff Locke (6-6). The left-hander lasted five innings and turned it over to the rebuilt bullpen.
That's when it got interesting.
Former Tigers closer Joakim Soria arrived a few hours before the game and slipped into his new role as setup man. He loaded the bases with two outs in the seventh — a pair of walks got him in trouble — but snagged Brayan Pena's liner over his head to end the threat.
''Survive!'' Soria said. ''See the ball and get the glove on it. It's never easy and sometimes you've got to react to the situation.''
Melancon needed Marte's help twice in the ninth to keep his club-record save streak intact — now 31 in a row.
He gave up a single to Brandon Phillips and walked Joey Votto with one out. Todd Frazier singled to left, but Marte nailed Phillips at the plate. Marte then made a diving catch of Marlon Byrd's liner, preserving Melancon's 33rd save in 34 chances overall.
''I saw the line drive was a little soft,'' Marte said. ''I told myself go 100 percent and dive and catch the ball. I knew I'd catch it.''
Hurdle had faith that he would.
''He's playing left field as good as anybody in the game,'' Hurdle said. ''He's playing it like he invented it right now. Strong.''
Before the game, Pittsburgh acquired left-handed starter J.A. Happ from Seattle on Friday as a stopgap with A.J. Burnett going on the disabled list. The Pirates also picked up infielder Michael Morse from Los Angeles, giving them a platoon option at first base to complement left-handed slugger Pedro Alvarez.
The next task: Finally win one in Cincinnati.
Locke gave up three runs in the second inning, highlighted by Ivan DeJesus Jr.'s two-run homer. McCutchen tied it 3-3 with his 15th homer off Lorenzen, who fell to 0-4 in his last six starts. McCutchen also homered during the All-Star Game at GABP on July 14 and has eight homers in his last 23 games there.
Jumbo Diaz relieved Lorenzen with the bases loaded in the sixth and threw a wild pitch that let in the go-ahead run. Marte followed with an RBI single for a 5-3 lead.
Byrd hit a solo homer off Jared Hughes in the sixth.
In addition to his consecutive saves streak, Melancon hasn't allowed a run in 22 innings. The last time he allowed a run was June 5.
Pirates: Marte was hit on the left hand by a pitch in the second inning and remained doubled over in pain for several minutes before staying in the game. He was 1 for 4.
Reds: RF Jay Bruce got a day of rest.
Pirates: Gerrit Cole is 9-2 with a 2.15 ERA in his last 12 starts. He pitched one inning in relief during the All-Star Game at GABP on July 14.
Reds: Rookie Raisel Iglesias makes his fourth appearance since returning from a strained left oblique. He has never faced the Pirates.