Bucs bounce back with win
By Will Graves
The Associated Press
PITTSBURGH — Kevin Newman expected to be part of a platoon at shortstop with Erik Gonzalez when he made the Pittsburgh Pirates out of spring training. A cut to the middle finger of his right hand a month ago sent Newman to the injured list instead.
Gonzalez soon joined Newman on the injured list with a broken collarbone and the arrival of top prospect Cole Tucker during their absence forced the Pirates to re-evaluate how they wanted to use Newman when he returned.
When Pittsburgh welcomed Newman back on Friday, manager Clint Hurdle told him to be ready for whatever. Whatever arrived on Saturday, when Newman ripped the go-ahead triple in the seventh inning to lift the Pirates to a 6-4 victory over the Oakland Athletics.
Newman came on in the sixth as a pinch runner during an aggressive sequence in which Hurdle burned three of his four bench players in an effort to erase a one-run deficit. While the moves didn’t work at first — the Pirates left the bases loaded — it set the stage for Newman to step to the plate in the seventh and give the Pirates a welcome win on the day it lost ace Jameson Taillon for a least a month with a strained right (throwing) elbow.
“Obviously, we’ve had a lot of guys go down with injuries, so it’s going to take everybody and everything we all got to win and we know that,” Newman said.
Newman’s first at-bat since April 8 came with runners on the corners and two outs in the seventh against J.B. Wendelken (0-1). Newman fouled off the first pitch and then sent a laser to the right-field corner that rolled around long enough for Bryan Reynolds to score all the way from first to give Pittsburgh the lead.
“It was just unfortunate he got up under it and pushed it on down the line,” Wendelken said. “Not much I can do about it. It was just a good pitch and a good piece of hitting.”
Francisco Cervelli followed with an RBI single to lift the Pirates to their third win in four games.
“It definitely gives me a lot of confidence,” Newman said. “I like to be the guy that comes up in that situation. I want to come through for my teammates.”
Josh Bell homered twice for Pittsburgh, taking Oakland starter Chris Bassitt deep in both the second and third innings for the first two-home run game of the first baseman’s career. Bell already has eight homers on the season, a number he didn’t reach in 2018 until mid-August. Reynolds finished with two hits to extend his hitting streak to 11 games, tying Polanco for the longest by a Pittsburgh player to start their career since 1901.
Michael Feliz (1-0) picked up the win in relief after coming on in the seventh when Keone Kela exited with discomfort in his right shoulder after giving up a leadoff double to Oakland rookie Skye Bolt. Felipe Vazquez worked around a two-out single by Marcus Semien to collect his ninth save.
“There’s going to be more guys going down throughout the year,” said Pittsburgh starter Trevor Williams, who gave up four runs in six innings. “Hopefully not as many as going on right now, but for guys to step up like JB did tonight and Kevin coming off the DL and having a big hit for us, it’s huge.”
Kris Davis, Kendry Morales and Matt Chapman all had two hits apiece for the Athletics, but Oakland fell to 1-7 on its current nine-game road trip when Chris Bassitt and three relievers couldn’t hold an early lead.
The A’s, who had a season-high 14 runs Friday night to end a six-game losing streak, jumped on Williams early. Davis and Stephen Piscotty sandwiched RBI singles around a run-scoring triple by Morales to give Oakland a quick 3-0 advantage in the first.
Bassitt, however, gave up home runs to Bell in both the second and third and needed 97 pitches to get through five innings. Wendelken’s bumpy seventh in which he gave up three runs on four hits boosted his ERA to 5.85.
“He’s going through a rough patch,” Oakland manager Bob Melvin said of Wendelken. “Still, we have a lot of faith in him.”
With Taillon and Chris Archer both on the injured list, the Pirates will turn to relievers Steven Brault and Nick Kingham to start during a brief two-game interleague series with Texas next week.
A’s: OF Nick Martini (right knee sprain) will run the bases Tuesday and will then go out for a rehab assignment barring a setback. … RHP Sean Manaea (left shoulder surgery) will throw a bullpen session Tuesday. … RHP Jharel Cotton (Tommy John surgery) remains in extended spring training and could work three innings in his next appearance.
A’s: Wrap up a nine-game road trip Sunday when they send Frankie Montas (4-2, 2.97 ERA) to the hill. Montas allowed seven runs in 4 1/3 innings in a loss to Boston last Monday.
Pirates: Jordan Lyles (2-1, 2.42) lasted just four innings in his previous start, when he gave up two runs on three hits with four walks and five strikeouts in a no-decision against Texas.