Pirates 5, Phillies 3
Abraham Nunez’s two-run double in the second inning helped the Pirates open a five-run lead against Kevin Millwood, and they held on for a 5-3 victory Saturday night that damaged the Phillies’ wild-card chances.
With Pirates starter Josh Fogg pitching effectively for most of his seven innings, the Phillies lost in Pittsburgh for the second straight night to fall 2 1/2 games behind NL wild-card leader Florida. The Marlins beat the Braves 8-3.
The Phillies, losers of four of six since winning six in a row, haven’t been this far out of the wild-card lead since they trailed the Dodgers by three games on June 26.
“Yeah, but we’ve still got a lot of games left against the team we’re trying to catch,” Jim Thome said, referring to the Phillies’ six remaining games against Florida. “It’s disappointing to lose the first two here, it’s tough … but we’ve got to try to keep everybody positive because we’ve still got games against the team ahead of us.”
The Pirates have been out of contention for weeks, but have won six of eight against the Marlins and Phillies since Aug. 26. Pittsburgh needs to lose only three more games to run its franchise record streak of losing seasons to 11.
“But you can see they have a lot of hunger,” Thome said. “They came out and scored some runs against a very good pitcher that’s won a lot of games.”
Millwood (14-11) walked Rob Mackowiak leading off the second and Tike Redman followed with a one-out double. Nunez’s double made it 3-0 and Jason Kendall added a run-scoring single, his seventh hit in 14 at-bats.
“It’s exciting to get a big hit in a game like this,” said Nunez, who is 10-for-22 in his last six games. “It’s fun to play against a team that is (contending) and maybe have an impact on their race.”
Afterward, Millwood pointed to some costly mental mistakes that were uncharacteristic of the Phillies. The biggest came in the ninth, when pinch-runner Nick Punto was picked off second by catcher Kendall after Tomas Perez bunted through a pitch. That allowed Julian Tavarez to work out of a jam despite letting the first three batters reach base on a walk and two singles.
“Physical mistakes are going to happen, but when you make mental mistakes, that’s what will kill you,” Millwood said. “You can’t play like that in the middle of the race.”
Punto was visibly down, saying, “It’s a fundamental. You see the bat hit the ball and you run. I anticipated it and that can’t happen. It was a terrible mistake.”
Fogg (10-8) became the first Pirates pitcher to reach double figures in wins this season, allowing only one hit over five shutout innings before giving up four consecutive hits during a three-run sixth.
The Phillies’ outburst came just after Fogg ran hard trying to beat out a grounder up the middle to end the fifth. Second baseman Utley caught the ball barehanded behind the bag, wheeled and threw out Fogg by a half-step.
“Josh was a little bit winded and it looked like he was trying to catch his breath,” manager Lloyd McClendon said. “I think that took something out of him.”
Fogg finally got out of the shaky sixth, then pitched a scoreless seventh before being lifted. The right-hander overcame three walks to win for the fourth time in five decisions. He has a 1.82 ERA in his last four starts.
Millwood gave up seven hits and five runs in five innings and has allowed 10 runs in 14 innings in his last two starts, both losses.
“I’m a better pitcher than that,” he said. “I haven’t been doing the jobI wanted to do.”
Tavarez pitched the final 1 2-3 innings for his seventh save in 10 attempts. … The Phillies have not played well defensively so far in the series, but center fielder Marlon Byrd made an excellent sliding catch of Wilson’s drive in the seventh. … The Pirates are 4-1 against the Phillies and have beaten them four straight times at PNC Park dating to last season. … The Phillies were held to three runs or fewer for the 57th time in 149 games. …Florida starts a three-game series at Veterans Stadium on Tuesday.