PITTSBURGH (AP) — The Pittsburgh Pirates have asked Wade LeBlanc to do a little bit of everything out of the bullpen the first month of the season. Long relief. One-batter matchups. Tight situations. Blowouts inning eater.
LeBlanc has thrived in them all. Now he can add another item: hitter. LeBlanc tossed three scoreless innings after a lengthy rain delay and added his first RBI since 2011 as the Pirates opened a brief homestand with a 4-0 win over the Milwaukee Brewers on Friday.
LeBlanc (2-0) allowed just two hits and struck out four. His single to left in the fifth off Rob Scahill (0-1) plated Francisco Cervelli, the first run LeBlanc has driven in since Aug. 30, 2011 while playing for San Diego.
”I wasn’t ready to get to anything else besides a fastball,” LeBlanc said. ”Put a swing on it, close your eyes, hopefully it finds some grass.”
LeBlanc trimmed his ERA to 2.33. His 19 1/3 innings lead Pittsburgh relievers.
”He’s one of those guys that more often than not can get overlooked within the game with all the analytics that are running right now,” Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. ”He has the feel to pitch. He reads swings well. He knows himself very well. He’s used it to his advantage.”
Josh Bell drove a ball into the Allegheny River on a bounce for his fifth homer for the Pirates. The first baseman’s solo shot off Scahill landed on the concourse behind the wall in right-center field at PNC Park then splashed into the river.
”It’s not the big fly that I’d hoped for, but maybe another time I’ll make it in the air,” said Bell, who also doubled. ”I’ll see. One bounce, not eight.”
Gregory Polanco added two hits and drove in a run for the Pirates, who won for just the second time in six games.
LeBlanc (2-0) replaced starter Chad Kuhl after a 2-hour, 27-minute rain delay and teamed with three other relievers as Pittsburgh earned its second shutout.
Nick Franklin had three of Milwaukee’s seven hits. Scahill, called up from Triple-A earlier in the week, struggled in relief of starter Jimmy Nelson. Nelson didn’t allow a hit in three innings but saw his outing end when the delay dragged on.
”He was on top of his game for sure,” Milwaukee manager Craig Counsell said. ”It was a very solid, quick efficient three innings. We got in, two-and-a-half hours is just too long.”
Pittsburgh wasted little time getting to Scahill. Bell led off the fourth with a double, and Polanco singled him home two batters later. Polanco scored on an error by first baseman Eric Thames. LeBlanc came on later in the inning with the bases loaded and dumped a single into left.
”I didn’t execute a lot of my pitches,” Scahill said. ”The ones I left up got hit. The ones I didn’t leave up, I got outs with.”
Bell’s long home run made it 4-0 in the fifth. Milwaukee’s only real threat came in the seventh when they loaded the bases off Juan Nicasio. Felipe Rivero shattered Jonathan Villar’s bat to get an inning-ending fielders’ choice.
Milwaukee reliever Jared Hughes sprinted out to the mound and tossed a scoreless sixth in his first appearance at PNC Park since the Pirates cut him following a bumpy spring training. Hughes spent 11 seasons in the Pirates organization, including six in the majors.
That made it a little weird for Hughes when he crossed the Roberto Clemente Bridge in his first visit to PNC Park on Friday. He tried the usual entrance and was told he needed to use the side door reserved for the visiting team.
Hughes visited briefly with Pirates manager Clint Hurdle. Hughes was a favorite of Hurdle’s son Christian.
”I needed to make sure I could tell Christian ‘Jared sends his love, all good,”’ Hurdle said.
Brewers: OF Ryan Braun had an MRI exam on his strained right arm in Milwaukee on Friday. The exam showed no structural damage. Braun will return to the team on Saturday and be available as a pinch hitter.
Pirates: Utility player Adam Frazier is getting closer to making a rehab appearance as he recovers from a strained left hamstring that’s kept him out since April 22.
Brewers: Matt Garza (1-0, 3.38 ERA) makes his third start of the season for Milwaukee. Garza is 3-6 with a 4.43 ERA in 13 starts against Pittsburgh.
Pirates: Gerrit Cole (1-3, 3.50 ERA) looks for his first win since April 14. Cole is 2-3 with a 3.77 ERA in seven starts against the Brewers.
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