PITTSBURGH (AP)—The Phillies enjoy this kind of offense a few times every week. For the Pirates, it is a newfound experience they hope to keep going for the rest of the season.
Third baseman Abraham Nunez’s two-run throwing error put Pittsburgh in the lead for the first time and the Pirates withstood Philadelphia’s four-run first inning and two early home runs to beat the Phillies 11-6 Saturday night.
Freddy Sanchez, one of the majors’ hottest hitters this month, had a two-run homer among three hits and Paul Maholm (9-14) recovered from allowing six runs in the first two innings to pitch seven innings for the victory.
The Pirates own the NL’s worst record, but in a span of three days they’ve rallied from deficits of five runs, in a 10-7 victory Thursday over the Mets, and four runs against the Phillies to beat the NL East’s two top teams. Part of the reason they were able to rally is a reawakened offense that leads the NL in runs scored (120) and home runs (27) in August.
“Hopefully, this will continue,” said Xavier Nady, who had two hits and scored three runs in his first start since injuring a hamstring July 31. “We’ve had our ups and downs all season, but hopefully this will point things in the right direction—for next season and the rest of this season.”
The Pirates are only 9-8 for the month, but they’re scoring plenty of runs— eight or more in each of their last four games and nine times overall. The only other stretch of sustained offense for one of baseball’s lowest-scoring teams came when they won nine of 13 going into the All-Star break.
“Early in the season, we had guys struggling at the same time and if one guy he was hitting, he was the only one who was hot,” Nady said. “Now, it always seems we’ve got guys coming up with runners on base and it’s contagious.”
The Phillies, who began the night tied for the NL wild-card lead with San Diego after winning four of five, easily lead the NL in runs scored with 666. But starter Jamie Moyer (11-9) couldn’t hold leads of 4-0 in the first and 6-2 in the second against a team the Phillies were 4-0 against this season.
“Usually, you get a four-run lead like that for him (Moyer) early in the game, he keeps you in the game,” manager Charlie Manuel said. “Tonight, they were hitting him pretty good.”
With the score tied at 6, Nady singled and Adam LaRoche doubled to start the Pirates’ fifth. Nunez then bobbled Ronny Paulino’s grounder, forcing him to rush a much-too-high throw that sailed far past first baseman Ryan Howard—scoring both runners and sending Paulino to second. Paulino later scored on Jack Wilson’s squeeze bunt.
“I rushed a little bit. It was a routine play and it should have been made,” Nunez said. “I didn’t make a play, and it cost us a game.”
Long before that, the Phillies looked like they would make it a rout. Jayson Werth, the fill-in right fielder with Shane Victorino injured, hit a three-run homer in the first following Howard’s RBI single. Within a span of six batters, the Phillies had more hits (4) against Maholm than he allowed in beating the Giants 3-1 Monday in a three-hit complete game.
The Pirates came back with four in their half of the first on run-scoring doubles by Jason Bay and LaRoche, Nady’s RBI single and a Paulino groundout.
Pat Burrell came right back to hit a two-run homer in the second, his 19th and second in as many nights, that made it 6-4. But Sanchez, last year’s NL batting champion, hit his eighth homer of the season in the fourth to tie it. Sanchez is 27-for-68 (.397) this month.
“Right there, I had to get as many outs as I could just to stay in the game,” Maholm said. “I started making pitches and that’s when things started clicking.”
Moyer, who was 4-0 in his five most recent starts, was lifted after being roughed up for nine hits and eight runs, seven earned, in four-plus innings. Maholm gave up 10 hits, but only three over his final five innings.
“I gave it right back to them,” Moyer said. “I took the momentum we created and passed it right back to them, and I deserve what I get. I’ve got to be better than that.”
Despite their recent offensive surge, the Pirates had dropped four of their previous five. … Pittsburgh has 37 runs and 46 hits in its last four games, although it is only 2-2 in those games. … Werth has three homers and 12 RBIs in 13 starts since Victorino strained his right calf last month. … The Phillies lost for the seventh time in their last 21 games against a left-handed starter. … Phillies reliever Mike Zagurski left in the eighth after straining his right hamstring on Paulino’s infield single. He will be placed on the 15-day disabled list Sunday.