James McDonald continues to mystify Pittsburgh Pirates fans with his first inning struggles. After throwing 5.1 innings in his last outing, McDonald struggled again in the first inning against the Boston Red Sox. In a 48-minute threat-of-rain-delay game at McKechnie Field, McDonald walked batters, hit a batter and continually battled to get ahead in the count early in the contest.
But as the game progressed, JMac worked more deliberately, started to show more change-ups and battled to get ahead of hitters.
Please don’t confuse us for Ray Searage (or even Jim Colborn). We didn’t sleep at a Holiday Inn Express last night, either, but McDonald does enough damage in the first inning that it’s difficult to even believe he pitched so damn effectively last season.
It really sounded like he was discovering what he had as the game progressed. The change-up sounded as if it was the pitch he was working on during the game, and the pitch got stronger as the game progressed.
Here was the mayhem:
Shane Victorino lead off the game by crushing a triple to right field. A sliding catch by center fielder Starling Marte left Victorino on third. The Flyin’ Hawaiian was still on third after a shallow single by Jackie Bradley. Jarrod Saltalamacchia walked to load the bases and Ryan Lavarnway followed with a line drive single to finally plate Victorino, and Bradley also scored on the single.
JMac settled in and got Travis Shaw looking, and Heiker Meneses flew out to right field as Brad Hawpe made a circus catch after battling the winds.
In the second inning, Ryan Dent lead off with a walk. Jonathan Hee grounded out and Victorino struck out. Daniel Nava was hit by a pitch, but Bradley grounded out to end the threat.
In the third inning, Saltalamacchia grounded out but, as was the trend, JMac walked Lavarnway. Travis Shaw went down on strikes again and Meneses popped out to end the inning.
McDonald seemed settled in by the time the fourth inning rolled around and got his first one, two, three inning of the game. Dent struck out swinging, Hee popped out, and Victorino went down looking as McDonald started to find the zone.
Coming out in the fifth inning as right-hander Vin Mazarro began to mill about in the pen, JMac needed to work cleanly to get through five. Nava singled and then JMac induced a big hop that Neil Walker stayed back on, erasing what might have been a double-play opportunity.
Salty swung and missed on a first pitch change-up from McDonald and couldn’t recover being erased on strikes with a spiked curveball. After JMac battled against Lavarnway, the third out was tracked down on a fly ball to right center which was hauled in by Starling Marte.
McDonald struck out six batters in his five innings of work. Mystifying…..just mystifying Let’s trust we are just being overly critical of McDonald’s one poor inning.
A homer by Neil Walker provided McDonald with his only offensive support.