The Pittsburgh Pirates hit three home runs and used seven runs in the first two innings to run away with a 9-4 victory over the Cleveland Indians on Tuesday night.
The Pirates (53-49) continued their winning ways with their eleventh straight victory in an easy romp over the Tribe, racking up early runs for the second straight night against Cleveland pitching. It marked the club’s longest winning streak since September of 1996. They were aided by strong starting pitching from Joe Musgrove, who allowed just two runs over seven innings of work.
Pittsburgh took the lead just two batters into the game against Indians’ rookie right-hander Shane Bieber. Corey Dickerson led off the game with a double to left-center and scored easily on a laser beam to the bleachers to give the Pirates a 2-0 lead.
The Indians manufactured a run in the bottom of the inning against Musgrove to cut the deficit in half. Francisco Lindor started the home half the same way that the Pirates began their night with a two-base hit to right. Michael Brantley sacrificed Lindor to third and Jose Ramirez plated the runner with a groundout to second to make it a 2-1 game. Edwin Encarnacion followed with a single but was left stranded on a groundout by Yonder Alonso.
Pittsburgh delivered the knockout blow with a big response in the next half inning. Josh Bell singled but was forced at second. Josh Harrison singled to put two on for the nine hitter Jordy Mercer, who struck out for the second out. On the verge of getting out of the jam, Bieber gave up a two-run triple to Dickerson on a ball poorly played in center to make it a 4-1 game. Starling Marte reached on an infield single to push across Dickerson to make it 5-1 and after a wild pitch, Gregory Polanco blasted a two-run homer to fully break the game open at 7-1. Bieber was lifted for Dan Otero, who retired the final out.
The Indians struggled to get anything going against Musgrove. Melky Cabrera started the second with a single to short, but was stranded at first as Musgrove began a streak of six straight retired. That stretch ended in the fourth with a leadoff blast to the Home Run Porch from Encarnacion, cutting the score to 7-2.
The Pirates got the run back and more in the next half inning. Elias Diaz singled to right off of the fourth pitcher of the game, Neil Ramirez. After a strikeout by Colin Moran, Bell homered deep to right to make it 9-2.
Musgrove walked Ramirez to start the bottom of the sixth, but retired the final six that he faced before turning the game over to the bullpen. Cleveland got a run back in the bottom of the eighth on a solo homer from Brandon Guyer off of Steven Brault, but stranded two with two outs. The Tribe got one more in the ninth off of Edgar Santana on back-to-back two-out hits from Tyler Naquin and Erik Gonzalez, as the latter’s double scored Naquin after his single to make it 9-4 before Guyer struck out swinging.
The Indians (54-46) dropped their third straight despite finding the scoreboard after consecutive shutouts on Sunday and Monday.
Musgrove improved to 4-4 on the year with his quality outing. He allowed a pair of runs on five hits with a walk and two strikeouts in seven innings of work. Both relievers allowed a run on two hits in an inning of work.
Bieber lasted just an inning and two-thirds in his worst big league start of his career to drop to 5-2 on the year. He was charged with seven runs on seven hits with a pair of strikeouts and two home runs surrendered.
“Right now, we’re facing a team that, if you make a mistake, they capitalize on everything,” said Indians skipper Terry Francona. “For two games now, that’s what’s happened.”
The Pirates went 4-for-9 with runners in scoring position. Dickerson, Marte, Diaz, and Bell each had two hits for Pittsburgh. Marte drove in three, while Dickerson, Polanco, and Bell each knocked in two runs.
The Indians will look to avoid the sweep on Wednesday afternoon in a 1:10 PM ET start. Trevor Bauer (8-6, 2.44 ERA) will look to play the stopper for the Tribe while hoping to bounce back from a rough outing against Texas to open the second half, when he allowed four runs on nine hits with five walks in four innings. Jameson Taillon (7-7, 3.80) will counter for the Pirates. He has allowed just two earned runs over his last eleven and one-third innings.
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