Pittsburgh Pirates 11, Toronto Blue Jays 11

Mar 19, 2017; Bradenton, FL, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates manager Clint Hurdle (13) prior to the spring training game against the Toronto Blue Jays at McKechnie Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 19, 2017; Bradenton, FL, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates manager Clint Hurdle (13) prior to the spring training game against the Toronto Blue Jays at McKechnie Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports /

The Pittsburgh Pirates hosted the Toronto Blue Jays on Sunday

The Pittsburgh Pirates are now 14-7-1 in Grapefruit League play. On Sunday, the Pirates and Toronto Blue Jays tied at 11.

Sunday’s game was a wild one. It was back-and-forth throughout the day and saw a combined 7 runs scored between the two teams in the ninth inning. It was truly a Grapefruit League masterpiece.

Gerrit Cole made the start for the Pittsburgh Pirates on Sunday. In Sunday’s game, Cole looked like the pitcher he was during the 2015 season when he finished fourth in Cy Young voting.

Cole pitched five innings for the Pirates on Sunday and needed just 60 pitches to do so. He allowed just one run, which came on a wind-aided solo home run, on five hits and he did not walk any batters. Cole also recorded five strikeouts in Sunday’s game.

During his start on Sunday Cole’s fastball sat in the 95-97 mile per hour range. His curveball had an excellent bite to it, and his slider was strong as well. All reports this spring is that Cole looks the best he ever has. If this is a sign of things to come in 2017 for Cole, then the Pirates chances of returning to the postseason improve immensely.

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Pirate closer Tony Watson would pitch the sixth inning. Following an infield hit, a walk, and a single the Blue Jays had the bases loaded with no one out against Watson. Steve Pearce then laced a two-run single off of Watson. After issuing another walk, Watson would be lifted for Minor League pitcher Miguel Rosario. Rosario allowed a bases-clearing double before recording the final out of the inning.

Watson wound up allowing five runs on three hits, two walks, and a strikeout in 2/3 of an inning pitched. Tony Watson needed over 30 pitches to record two outs. Additionally, he threw a first-pitch strike to just 2 out of the 7 batters he faced.

It should be noted that Watson should have been out of the inning with just two runs allowed, however, third baseman Eric Wood lost a pop foul that would have been the third out of the inning in the sun. This at-bat ended in a walk and preceded Rosario allowing a bases clearing double.

After having the worst season of his career in 2016, Watson has struggled this spring. Hopefully, this is not a sign of things to come this season. Especially since Clint Hurdle seems determined to have a designated closer and for it to be Watson.

In the seventh inning, Daniel Hudson pitched for the Pirates. He allowed a run on a hit and a walk. This was just the second run Hudson has allowed this spring.

The eighth inning belonged to Jared Hughes. Hughes had arguably his best outing of the spring, albeit it came against all Minor League hitters, putting the Blue Jays down in order and recording a pair of strikeouts. Despite today’s outing, the Pirates should still send Hughes to Triple-A to start the season as he remains a pitcher in decline.

For the ninth inning, Clint Hurdle handed the ball to Antonio Bastardo. While it was not all his doing due to some poor defense behind him, the ninth inning did not go well for Bastardo. He allowed a base hit to the first three batters he faced to load the bases with no one out. Then, he issued back-to-back bases loaded walks to bring in a pair of runs.

After this, Bastardo recorded a strikeout and was then lifted for Minor League pitcher Brett McKinney. Ultimately, Bastardo was charged with four runs on three hits and two walks in 1/3 of an inning pitched.

This ended a streak of three consecutive outings without allowing a run for Bastardo.

Alen Hanson started in left field and was the Pirate leadoff hitter on Sunday. At the plate, he was 3-for-6 with an infield hit, two doubles, and a stolen base. He also showed off his strong arm in left field. In the fourth inning, he threw out two Toronto runners at the plate. Hanson continues to do all he can to make the team, and, odds are, with the latest Jung Ho Kang news he will.

Jordy Mercer made the start at shortstop and went 1-for-3 with a double before being lifted for Max Moroff. Moroff walked, collected a RBI single, and lined out to shortstop in three trips to the plate.

Francisco Cervelli returned to the Pirate lineup for the first time since returning from the World Baseball Classic. Cervelli caught six innings and went 0-for-2 with a walk.

David Freese who is now in position to open the season as the everyday third baseman started at first base and went 2-for-3 with a double. Austin Meadows entered the game as a pinch-hitter in the bottom of the seventh, and would then remain in the game to play center field. He finished the day 1-for-3 with a pair of RBIs and a stolen base.

Gift Ngoepe continued to be one of the Pirates’ best hitters this spring, the utility infielder finished the day 3-for-5 with a double and two RBIs. Minor League outfielder Michael Suchy went 1-for-2 with a two-run home run.

Next: An Update On Kang's Status

Next up for the Pirates is a trip to Port Charlotte to play the Tampa Bay Rays. Jameson Taillon will start for the Bucs, and Jake Odorizzi gets the nod for the Rays. Edgar Santana and Wade LeBlanc are also scheduled to pitch for the Pirates. First pitch is scheduled for 1:05 PM.