Clouds hang over PNC Park during a rain delay before a baseball game between the Pittsburgh Pirates and Oakland Athletics in Pittsburgh Tuesday, July 9, 2013. The Athletics won 2-1. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
by Will Graves
AP Sports Writer
PITTSBURGH (AP) – Dan Straily pitched two-hit ball into the seventh inning, Brandon Moss hit a two-run homer and the Oakland Athletics beat the Pittsburgh Pirates 2-1 on Tuesday night.
Straily (6-2) struck out seven and walked three in 6 1-3 innings for his second straight strong outing. Grant Balfour worked the ninth to remain perfect in 24 save chances this season. The A’s have won 10 of 13.
Gerrit Cole (4-2) lost his second consecutive decision despite working seven innings for the first time in his four-week major league career. Cole allowed five hits, struck out four and walked two.
Andrew McCutchen strikes out against Oakland Athletics closer pitcher Grant Balfour during the ninth inning of a baseball game in Pittsburgh Tuesday, July 9, 2013. The Athletics won 2-1. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
After the start was delayed 1 hour, 42 minutes, Pedro Alvarez hit his 23rd home run but Pittsburgh matched a season high with its fourth straight loss.
Straily has struggled starting on four days’ rest during his brief major league career, coming in 0-3 with a 7.16 ERA when not given at least five days between starts.
Yet the rookie had no issues dealing with Pittsburgh’s suddenly punchless offense. The Pirates have scored just six runs during a 2-6 slump that has dropped them behind first-place St. Louis in the heated NL Central race.
Alvarez provided Pittsburgh’s lone run with a 448-foot drive to the bushes in center leading off the second. The home run made him just the third player in team history to reach 23 homers before the All-Star break, joining Ralph Kiner and Willie Stargell.
In a way, Alvarez is having the type of season the franchise once envisioned for Moss. The first baseman spent parts of three seasons with the Pirates between 2008-10, with Pittsburgh hoping his raw left-handed power would help him pound balls off – or over – the Clemente Wall in right field.
It never really happened. Moss hit all of 13 homers in 195 games for the Pirates before eventually making his way to Oakland, where he’s become a key cog in one of baseball’s biggest surprises.
Moss provided a glimpse of what could have been in Pittsburgh in the fourth when Cole wobbled for the briefest of moments. The right-hander had retired nine straight when John Jaso stepped to the plate. The Pirates swung the defense to the right only to have Jaso smack a double down the left-field line. The ball would have been playable if Alvarez was in his normal position at third base. Instead, he was 40 feet away as the ball rolled into the outfield.
One pitch later, Moss gave the A’s the lead, sending a changeup into the second row in right to give Straily all the backing he needed.
The Pirates didn’t get a runner to third base over the final six innings. Their best chance to tie the game came in the seventh when Alvarez led off with a walk and moved to second on Russell Martin’s sacrifice bunt. Oakland reliever Sean Doolittle replaced Straily and struck out pinch-hitter Gaby Sanchez before getting Jordy Mercer to pop up to first.
Jose Tabata led off the ninth with a single off Balfour, but Andrew McCutchen and Alvarez struck out before Martin grounded out meekly to first as Balfour extended his club record for consecutive save chances converted to 42, dating to last season.
NOTES: The start of the game was pushed back due to the potential of inclement weather. While lightning flashed several times during the 1:42 delay, it never actually rained. … Oakland LF Yoenis Cespedes was selected to the American League team for the Home Run Derby next Monday night in New York. Cespedes, who has 15 home runs this season, is the first A’s player to be chosen for the Home Run Derby since Jason Giambi in 2001. … McCutchen went 0 for 3, ending his 10-game hitting streak. … The series wraps up on Wednesday when Pittsburgh LHP Francisco Liriano (8-3, 2.20 ERA) faces Oakland LHP Tommy Milone (8-7, 4.11). … Hall of Fame golfer Arnold Palmer, who grew up in Latrobe, about 45 minutes east of Pittsburgh, was in attendance.