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Joe Musgrove stalwart in Pirates’ win over Reds

October 2, 2018
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Pirates hird baseman Pablo Reyes singles for his first Major League hit during the fourth inning against the Reds Tuesday, Sept. 4, 2018, at PNC Park.

If word gets out about this, Francisco Cervelli might be running a bed and breakfast for starting pitchers before too long.

Because of a power outage at his apartment, Joe Musgrove spent Monday night at Cervelli’s house.

Musgrove came out Tuesday and turned in his best performance in weeks, pitching into the seventh inning and leading the Pittsburgh Pirates to a 7-3 victory over the Cincinnati Reds in front of 8,855 fans, the smallest announced attendance at PNC Park this season.

“I went over there and crashed,” Musgrove said. “He made some homemade arepas and some good Venezuelan food. We talked for a couple hours.”

Musgrove told Cervelli he felt like his delivery was inconsistent, and the feel for his pitches he had during much of the first half of the season had disappeared.

Cervelli suggested a different approach for attacking a lineup.

Usually, Musgrove likes to throw his 94-mph fastball a lot early, which sets up his breaking pitches for later. On Tuesday, like in his previous two starts, he started the game without the command or life from his fastball that he needs to succeed.

So he and Cervelli went to Plan B early.

It led to six dominant innings.

Musgrove allowed two hits, only one of which -- a Joey Votto liner to right with two outs in the first -- left the infield. He struck out eight and walked none.

He stumbled in the seventh, giving up a solo home run to Scooter Gennett and a pair of hard-hit singles before giving way to the bullpen, but by then, the Pirates already had a 6-0 lead.

All told, he allowed five hits and two runs -- showing a lot more good than bad.

“I feel like tonight we actually pitched,” Musgrove said, describing what Plan B entailed. “I used my breaking ball, my off-speed stuff earlier in the game than I ever have, and I was able to get them off the fastball enough to be able to use it up in the zone late. It was a really good learning experience for me.”

Before the game, manager Clint Hurdle said he hoped Musgrove would use his last few starts of the season to put the finishing touches on his pitching portfolio, polishing the finer points of the game that front-of-the-rotation starters have mastered.

Tuesday’s performance was a step in that direction.

“I just think he’s finding that gas pedal, and he’s finding that accelerator. I don’t know if he’s got a brake,” Hurdle said. “But the other two, he rides it good. I think the feel for game pitching is really getting stronger as the season goes on.”

At the plate, the Pirates again were led by Gregory Polanco and Adam Frazier, who have been their most dangerous hitters the second half of the season.

Polanco went 3 for 4, including a two-run double to the right-field corner that made it 3-0 in the third. Frazier doubled, walked and scored twice.

But the Pirates also got key contributions from other spots in the lineup.

Starling Marte hit a two-run shot in the fourth, giving the team a home run from someone other than Polanco or Frazier for the first time since Aug. 15.

Utility infielder Pablo Reyes, making his first major league start after a Sept. 1 call-up, singled and scored on Marte’s homer and doubled in a run in the eighth.

“You’re looking for contagions,” Hurdle said. “Hopefully this was a contagion to get us going in a direction that we haven’t had a lot of consistency.”

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