Pirates 3, Phillies 3

Jenifer Langosch/MLB.com

Yes, there are ties in baseball. But really, who would have thought this one would have ended with only six total runs scored after five runners touched the plate before the end of the first? Certainly not me.

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Saturday’s McKechnie Field opener commenced with Petrina McCutchen — yes, that center fielder Andrew McCutchen’s mom — singing the national anthem. She did a fabulous job, too, at least in my opinion. The more Spring Training games you go to the more shaky national anthem renditions you start hearing. Ms. McCutchen, however, was legitimately impressive.

Andrew was gone from the clubhouse before the game ended so I wasn’t able to get his reaction to his mom’s performance postgame, but he did treat her to a 2-for-2 performance in his third start of the spring. McCutchen also drew a walk and scored once. He swiped one base (his first of the spring) but was caught stealing trying to do it again in the fifth.

Look for him to continue being aggressive on the basepath, as he has made it a goal to steal more this season.

***

The Pirates’ other multi-hit game belonged to outfielder Ryan Church, who drove a Joe Blanton pitch easily over the right-field wall for a two-run homer in the first.

***

Infielder Ramon Vazquez made his return to the field on Saturday and his right knee seemed to hold up just fine. This was Vazquez’s first game appearance of the spring. You’ll remember he started camp a bit slow after undergoing right knee surgery this offseason.

“He moved pretty well today,” manager John Russell said. “That’s a good sign. Again, the swing and everything is continuing to progress. But the big thing for Ramon is just making sure he’s healthy and moving him around. He played a nice game at second.”

Vazquez started an exceptional double play in the first (Kevin Hart owes him big time) with a diving stop up the middle. He flipped the ball to shortstop Bobby Crosby, who caught it barehanded and finished the twin killing.

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Speaking of defense, Crosby was fun to watch at short today. In addition to that first inning double plate, he made a sensational diving stop on a ball way out to his right. He then reacted perfectly to a ball ricocheting off D.J Carrasco and threw out a speedy Dominic Brown at first.

Before the game started, Crosby took groundballs at first, short and third. He’s going to continue to get work all around the infield and might even get some time in the corner outfield spots.

***

On the pitching side of things, it was a rough day for Hart (you can read more about his outing on the pirates.com site). Another eight pitchers, though, combined for nine innings and one run allowed.

Personally, I was particularly impressed by Brendan Donnelly, Carrasco and Jack Taschner. For noting some disjointedness in his mechanics earlier this spring, Donnelly came out firing strikes and finished his perfect inning with ease.

Carrasco allowed just two baserunners in two innings and was much more efficient than Hart. He also pulled out the side arm delivery against right-handed batters.

Taschner — who struck out Ryan Howard, Raul Ibanez and John Mayberry in the fifth — has now made two scoreless appearances. Of the six outs he’s record, five have come via a strikeout.

Follow me on Twitter: @LangoschMLB

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