O's spring late offense to back sharp Norris
Cruz drives in tying run with RBI double, Almanzar provides go-ahead RBI sac fly
BRADENTON, Fla. -- Michael Almanzar's seventh-inning sacrifice fly proved to drive in the go-ahead run as the Orioles took down the Pirates, 4-2, in a Grapefruit League matchup on Thursday night.
Almanzar's deep fly to right off reliever Vin Mazzaro scored Jemile Weeks, who had been the lead man on a double steal with Ryan Flaherty.
Francisco Liriano, the Bucs' Opening Day starter, was sailing along on a four-hit shutout with two outs in the sixth when he landed awkwardly after delivering a 2-and-1 pitch to Adam Jones. Catcher Russell Martin immediately noticed and waved manager Clint Hurdle and assistant trainer Ben Potenziano out of the dugout.
After a few minutes of being surrounded by Hurdle, Potenziano and the entire infield, Liriano walked off the field and soon afterwards strolled down to the home clubhouse in the right-field corner, with no noticeable limp. He was said to have tightness in his left groin area, and his departure was termed precautionary.
The Orioles tied the game at 1 within minutes of Liriano's exit. Jones grounded to third off Minor League right-hander Kenn Kasparek and Pedro Alvarez's throw pulled first baseman Gaby Sanchez off the bag. Nelson Cruz immediately cashed in on the error with an RBI double up the left-center alley.
Bud Norris went the first five innings for the Orioles and held the Pirates to two hits, including a first-inning home run by Andrew McCutchen.
McCutchen, who hit .240 last spring prior to his National League MVP season, continued a torrid pace. McCutchen is batting .556 this spring -- his average actually declined from .560 because he went 1-for-2 -- and has 12 hits in his last 21 at-bats.
Liriano was aided by double plays that wiped out leadoff hits in each of the first two innings, and continued pitching out of trouble. In the fourth, Cruz doubled with one away and continued to third on a flubbed throw -- and Liriano responded with strikeouts of Steve Pearce and Delmon Young.
Up next: The Orioles will send Opening Day starter Chris Tillman to the mound on Friday against Braves righty Gus Schlosser. The 1:05 p.m. ET contest at Ed Smith Stadium is the only time the Orioles play the Braves this spring.
Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. He can also be found on Twitter @Tom_Singer. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.