Bullpen falters as Phillies fall to Pirates 5-4

Published April 8, 2012 10:36PM (EDT)

PITTSBURGH (AP) — The Philadelphia Phillies are in no danger of panicking. You don't reel off five straight NL East titles by getting rattled in April.

Still, there are better ways to start the season than dropping two winnable games against your plucky cross-state rivals.

Andrew McCutchen capped a Pittsburgh rally with a single off the wall in center with two outs in the ninth to lift the Pirates to a 5-4 victory, their second walkoff win against the Phillies in less than 24 hours.

"We had a good chance to win this series and we didn't," manager Charlie Manuel said. "It's disappointing but it's just three games into the season. The disappointing part for me is we got real good starting pitching but we only won once. You hate to waste that kind of pitching."

Hunter Pence hit his first home run of the season and drove in two runs for the Phillies, who appeared to be in control after Juan Pierre's single off reliever Jared Hughes in the seventh gave them a three-run lead.

Philadelphia's four runs were as many as the two teams had combined during the first two games of the series.

The Pirates matched that total over the last three innings, getting two in the seventh and one in the eighth before McCutchen smashed a Daniel Herndon (0-1) pitch off the wall in center to score pinch-runner Josh Harrison.

Pedro Alvarez homered for Pittsburgh and Casey McGehee hit two doubles, the second one a shot to the gap in left-center leading off the ninth.

Harrison entered and moved to third on Alex Presley's sacrifice bunt. Herndon struck out Jose Tabata and worked the count to 3-2 before McCutchen drilled a fastball over the head of centerfielder Shane Victorino to send the Pirates pouring out of the dugout.

"That's what we preached in spring training, to finish and go from there," McCutchen said.

Pittsburgh started the comeback in the bottom of the seventh as McGehee ripped a double to right off reliever Michael Stutes and Presley followed with a run-scoring single to get the Pirates within one.

Stutes and Tabata then got into a 10-pitch battle which Stutes narrowly escaped when Tabata's drive to left sailed just foul. Tabata later flied out to end the threat.

The Phillies wouldn't be so fortunate in the eighth.

McCutchen singled, Yamaico Navarro walked with one out and Hague — who made the team after hitting seven homers during spring training — looped a soft liner to left just over the outstretched glove of shortstop Jimmy Rollins to score McCutchen and tie the game.

"There's a lot of doubters out there," McCutchen said.

Pittsburgh starter James McDonald gave up two runs and four hits in six innings, walking two and striking out three while looking much better than he did during a miserable spring training in which he posted an 8.21 ERA. McDonald was better against Philadelphia's depleted lineup, his only real mistakes coming against Pence.

The right-fielder gave Philadelphia the lead in the first, driving home Shane Victorino with a double to left, and then clobbered a fastball from McDonald to the deepest part of PNC Park in the fourth. The drive easily cleared the 410-foot sign in left-center to put Philadelphia up 2-0.

It looked as though that might be enough for Vance Worley, who gave up Alvarez's homer but not much else in six innings, mirroring strong performances by Philadelphia aces Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee to start the season.

Worley gave up five hits, walked one and struck out five on an economical 78 pitches but was pulled for a pinch-hitter in the seventh after the Phillies got two runners on. Lanyce Nix struck out before Pierre collected his first National League hit since playing for the Dodgers in 2009.

The four runs were a major outburst for a team that managed just two through the first 19 innings of the series. But Philadelphia left eight runners on base and struggled to get production out of a lineup missing injured All-Stars Ryan Howard and Chase Utley.

"We've got guys in the middle of the lineup who have proven they can hit in the big leagues," Manuel said. "They will and we'll score runs."

NOTES: The Pirates have won 10 of the 12 series between the teams at PNC Park. ... Philadelphia's Jim Thome made his first start at first base since 2007. He was perfect in the field and turned a 3-6-3 double play in the fourth. ... The Phillies host the Marlins in their home opener on Monday. Cole Hamels (14-9, 2.79 ERA in 2011) will start for Philadelphia. Anibal Sanchez (8-9, 3.67 ERA in 2011) gets the nod for Miami. ... The Pirates begin a nine-game road trip in Los Angeles on Tuesday. Kevin Correia will start for Pittsburgh against NL Cy Young winner Clayton Kershaw.

By Salon Staff

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