By Rob Biertempfel
The Pirates and Red Sox have five common off days this season, with April 13 being the easiest option. The Red Sox will be in the midst of a homestand, while the Pirates will be between the end of a homestead and the start of a weekend road series against the Chicago Cubs.
The other four dates would put either the Pirates or Red Sox in violation of MLB’s rule which prohibits a team from playing more than 19 games in a row.
>>> Locked in a scoreless tie in the ninth inning, the Pirates put their leadoff batter on first base when Jordy Mercer reached via an error. Up stepped Starling Marte, who at that point was 0 for 3 with two strikeouts — and 0 for 7 on the season.
Facing Craig Kimbrel, whose fastball was touching 100 mph, Marte tried to bunt. He popped the ball ball into foul ground where third baseman Pablo Sandoval, whose error let Mercer reach base, made an easy catch. The Pirates went on to lose 3-0 in 12 innings. Manager Clint Hurdle said Marte decided on his own to try the bunt. “Marte felt it was the best move for him to try to help us win the game,” Hurdle said. “There was no bunt sign on.”
Did Marte make the correct choice? Hurdle smiled. “I’m not going to second-guess my players publicly. I know it’s hard to bunt a guy who throws almost 100 mph. However, that’s the initiative he took to try to help us win the game. It’s hard to tell a player, when he says he’s trying to help you win a game, that he might’ve done the wrong thing.”
>>> In addition to Mercer reaching on the miscue, the Pirates got five singles and one walk. None of those runners made it past first base. “I’m not going to overcook this thing offensively,” Hurdle said. “They threw some good stuff at us.” OK, in that case, let’s allow Joe Block to do some cooking via Twitter …
It's been at least 105 years – if ever – since #Pirates played 12+ innings and did not reach second base
— Joe Block (@joe_block) April 6, 2017
>>> Juan Nicasio tossed a tidy 11th inning, getting two strikeouts and a grounder. He has the ability to pitch multiple innings, but gave way to Antonio Bastardo to start the 12th. Bastardo served up Sandy Leon’s game-winning, three-run homer.
Hurdle said he didn’t want to tax Nicasio by keeping the righty out there on a late, chilly evening. “He’d gotten up earlier in the game and gotten hot,” Hurdle said. “Then he was down for three innings and got hot again. I didn’t think it was in our best interests on a cold night to run him out any more than he had to in the second game of the season.”
>>> Andrew McCutchen got his first assist as a right fielder on Wednesday. He made a catch to rob Mitch Moreland of a home run for the first time, too. That’s two items checked off the bucket list in the same game. “Now, if I can get my first hit off that bucket list, I’ll be good to go,” McCutchen said.
McCutchen went 0 for 5 in the 12-inning loss against the Red Sox. That dropped him to 0 for 9 on the season. It’s the deepest he’s gone into a season without getting a hit. In 2012, McCutchen went hitless in his first six at-bats.
Despite the slow start, McCutchen said he feels good at the plate. He didn’t strike out on Wednesday (after whiffing three times on Monday) and flied out twice to the outfield. “I know I haven’t gotten a hit yet, but it’s game No. 2, so I’m not going to stress over it,” McCutchen said. “I’m going to keep my approach. I’m going in the right direction. I took some good swings at some good pitches. I hit a couple of balls decent. That’s baseball sometimes. I’m looking forward to (Thursday) and going at it again.”
>>> You want links? I’ve got links:
Red Sox 3, Pirates 0: Leon whacked a Monster shot, as the Pirates waste a stellar effort by Jameson Taillon.
Notebook: In which Gregory Polanco is fixed in No. 4 spot, the payroll dips, and the home opener is threatened by The Winter That Wouldn’t End.
Gregory Polanco in #Pirates cleanup spot is …
— Rob Biertempfel (@BiertempfelTrib) April 3, 2017
Thursday’s game: Pirates at Red Sox, 1:35 p.m., Fenway Park, Boston. TV: Root. Radio: 93.7 FM
Braves: Lineup TBA RHP R.A. Dickey (2017 debut)
Pirates: Lineup TBA RHP Ivan Nova (2017 debut)
>>> Saturday’s game: Braves at Pirates, 7:05 p.m., PNC Park. TV: None. Radio: 93.7 FM
Braves: Lineup TBA. RHP Mike Foltynewicz
Pirates: Lineup TBA RHP Tyler Glasnow (2017 debut)
>>> Sunday’s game: Braves at Pirates, 1:35 p.m., PNC Park. TV: Root. Radio: 93.7 FM
Braves: Lineup TBA. RHP Julio Teheran (0-0, 0.00 ERA)
Pirates: Lineup TBA RHP Gerrit Cole (0-1, 9.00 ERA)
Rob Biertempfel is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at email@example.com or via Twitter @BiertempfelTrib.