Bullpen bears down


PHOENIX — Zach Duke led tonight’s game against the Diamondbacks with a 6-3 lead. In the eighth, he watched relievers Jack Taschner, Brendan Donnelly and Javier Lopez get through a dicey situation allowing just one run.

Taschner gave up a leadoff double to Kelly Johnson and walked pinch-hitter Rusty Ryal. Donnelly walked Conor Jackson, loading the bases with none out.

Tony Abreu’s sac fly scored Johnson. Center fielder Andrew McCutchen tried to double Ryal off second, but the throw was wide and rolled to the fence near the Pirates’ dugout. Ryan went to third and Jackson to second.

Donnelly struck out Justin Upton, who represented the potential tying run. Lopez came in and fanned Adam LaRoche to end the inning.

“That’s the way it’s supposed to work,” Donnelly said. “One guy hands it off to the next guy, until we get to (closer Octavio) Dotel.”

Dotel tossed a 1-2-3 ninth for his first save for the Pirates.

After the back-to-back strikeouts to end the eighth inning, Duke exhaled.

“After it’s over, it’s a lot of fun,” Duke said. “During it, it’s a little stressful. That’s one of the beauties of our team; the guys in the bullpen have a lot of experience. They know what to do in those situations.”

— Ryan Doumit tied his career high with four strikeouts tonight. He’s whiffed six times in 21 at-bats this season, and is hitting .286 with three RBI. Don’t be stunned if Jason Jaramillo is in the lineup Sunday afternoon.

— Right-hander Daniel McCutchen will be optioned to Triple-A Indianapolis after Sunday’s game against Arizona. The Pirates will not need a No. 5 starter again until April 24, when either McCutchen or Kevin Hart will be recalled from Indy. McCutchen’s departure will clear a roster spot for reliever Joel Hanrahan (elbow), who will be activated from the disabled list Monday.

— An unidentified teammate stuck a bubble gum bubble atop Daniel McCutchen’s cap during the game. “I just wanted to get some TV time,” McCutchen said, grinning. He did on the MLB Network, which televised the game. However, McCutchen did not need a TV to discover he was the victim of a practical joke. “I got a bunch of text messages about it,” he said. “A lot of them came from (friends in) Oklahoma. They’re going to put it on my highlight tape.”

— Brandon Moss went 3 for 5, including a game-winning, solo homer in the eighth inning tonight for Triple-A Indy.