Jonathan Sanchez didn’t look like a guy ready to give the Pittsburgh Pirates bullpen a needed night off after the St. Louis Cardinals touched him for two runs in the first inning on Tuesday.
Instead, Mother Nature intervened.
A massive thunderstorm hit at the end of the second inning with the Pirates leading 4-2, and the game was called after a delay of 1 hour, 24 minutes. No makeup date was immediately announced.
The deluge wiped out a promising start for Pittsburgh’s offense but the Pirates could certainly use the break after the bullpen did yeoman’s work in relief of struggling starter James McDonald on Monday night.
The right-hander gave up eight runs — three earned — in a 10-6 loss but insisted he’s not injured.
The struggling McDonald understands his velocity is down but doesn’t believe it is injury-related. His fastball — which can top out at 94 mph — rarely ticked about 90 mph against the Cardinals. He isn’t panicking, pointing to similar issues early in the 2012 season.
“It was just one of those times you don’t feel too well,” McDonald said. “It’s just one of those times where your body feels beat up.”
McDonald fell to 1-2 as his ERA rose to 5.27.
Manager Clint Hurdle allowed McDonald’s problems are “perplexing” but he doesn’t plan on pulling McDonald from his next scheduled start on Saturday against Atlanta.
Tuesday night’s cancellation could give the Pirates some flexibility.
Sanchez — who came in with a 12.96 ERA — allowed two runs in the first inning but retired the side in order in the second.
Matt Holliday had an RBI single for St. Louis. Garrett Jones, Neil Walker and Pedro Alvarez all had RBI singles for Pittsburgh. None of it will count. The game will be replayed in its entirety.
The rainout allows Pittsburgh’s depleted bullpen to get a needed day of rest. The Pirates called up reliever Vin Mazzaro from Triple-A Indianapolis on Tuesday for some help after long relievers Justin Wilson and Bryan Morris worked a combined 61/3 innings in relief of McDonald.
Hurdle hoped Sanchez — who made the team out of spring training as a non-roster invitee — would be able work deep enough to get to the setup guys. It hasn’t been the best start to the season for the left-hander. He was roughed up by Arizona in his previous start, allowing nine runs in 31/3 innings.
It looked like more of the same in the first inning Tuesday. Sanchez walked Cardinals spring training star Shane Robinson on four pitches to start the game. Carlos Beltran followed with a single two pitches later and Holliday dumped Sanchez’s next offering into center, bringing home Robinson.
Allen Craig lined out to shortstop Clint Barmes, but the typically solid Barmes made his second error in as many days when his attempt to double off Beltran at second ended up in right field.
Beltran moved to third and then scored on Yadier Molina’s grounder to first.