Between Pedro Alvarez’s first-inning, two-run home run and Jordy Mercer’s walk-off RBI single to center in the 11th, the Pirates couldn’t muster much offense against Mets starter Jeremy Hefner and the bullpen. Pirates starter Charlie Morton held the Mets down through five, but allowed an RBI single to David Wright in the sixth and a solo home run to Kirk Nieuwenhuis in the seventh to tie it.
Rather than use closer Bobby Parnell in the eleventh after exhausting most of their other bullpen options, manager Terry Collins decided to play “by the book” and use 23-year-old Gonzalez Germen, who was making his Major League debut. Including his work in the Minors, he had pitched once since June 29. Andrew McCutchen walked to lead off the inning, then stole second base while Alvarez struck out. Russell Martin was intentionally walked to set up a double play, but Germen struck out Gaby Sanchez swinging for the second out. On the third pitch of the last at-bat of the game, Jordy Mercer snuck a ground ball up the middle, allowing McCutchen to score from second base to seal the win.
The victory is the 55th of the season for the Pirates. As the Cardinals defeated the Cubs earlier 3-2 for their 56th win, they remain one game ahead of the Pirates in first place in the NL Central. The Pirates have a four-game lead over the Cincinnati Reds for the first NL Wild Card spot.
The Royals honored former pitcher Yordano Ventura prior to their first Cactus League game against the Rangers on Saturday. Ventura was killed in a car accident in his native Dominican Republic in late January.
Rangers’ third baseman Adrian Beltre and center fielder Carlos Gomez paid their respects to the pitcher with a floral arrangement that was laid on the mound. Both teams stood along the foul lines during a pregame video tribute that highlighted Ventura’s tenure with Kansas City. Following the game, Gomez spoke to the media about his relationship with Ventura, describing their frequent conversations during the season and commending the pitcher for having “the same passion that I had early in my career” (via WFAA.com’s Levi Weaver).
A plaque dedicated to the 25-year-old was also presented to club manager Ned Yost as a more permanent commemoration of Ventura’s contributions to the sport. Blair Kerkhoff of the Kansas City Star reports that the plaque will be mounted in the club’s spring training facilities alongside tributes to members of the Royals’ 2014 and 2015 playoff teams.
The full text of the plaque is below, via MLB.com’s Jeffrey Flanagan:
A brother and a teammate, Yordano Ventura, passed away on the morning of January 22 in his native Dominican Republic, at the age of 25. He signed with the Royals as a 17-year-old, eventually making the big league team in 2013 as a 22-year-old. On most days, he could be found laughing and joking with his baseball family in the clubhouse. However, on days when he pitched, that smile was replaced by a quiet confidence and an intense fire, which he brought to the mound for every start. He had many highlights in his abbreviated career, not the least of which was throwing eight shutout innings in Game #6 of the 2014 World Series to force a Game #7 vs. San Francisco.
Right-hander Gerrit Cole is set to take the mound for the Pirates on Opening Day, according to a team announcement on Saturday. It’s a spot that was most recently occupied by former Pirate Francisco Liriano, who made three consecutive Opening Day starts for the club before getting dealt to the Blue Jays last August.
The 26-year-old produced career-worst numbers during his fourth run with the Pirates in 2016, due in large part to bouts of inflammation in his right elbow. He finished the year with a 3.88 ERA, 2.8 BB/9 and 7.6 SO/9 over 116 innings before getting shut down in September to avoid further injury to his elbow. When healthy, however, Cole has been lights-out for the Pirates. Prior to his injury-laden campaign last year, he touted a career 3.07 ERA, 2.2 BB/9, 8.5 SO/9 and cumulative 10.2 fWAR from 2013 through 2015.
Cole will go toe-to-toe with the Red Sox during Boston’s home opener on Monday, April 3. Right-hander Jameson Taillon is scheduled to make the second start of the year, while fellow righty Ivan Nova will cover the Pirates’ home opener against the Braves on April 7. The Pirates’ third and fifth starters have yet to be announced.