While the Pirates lost to the St. Louis Cardinals at PNC Park Sunday, 2-0, it was a successful major league debut for starter James Marvel.
The 25-year-old right-hander lasted 5+ innings and allowed two runs on four hits and two walks. A couple bloops in the fifth inning and a Paul Goldschmidt gap shot in the sixth were the only times the Cardinals could get anything going all day.
"There's nothing to not be pleased about," Clint Hurdle said of Marvel's outing. "Unpredictable, worked fast, efficient, wasn't afraid of the barrel, challenged hitters, got outs ... Fun to watch."
Marvel was quick to give credit to his battery mate, Jacob Stallings.
"He was incredible back there," Marvel said. "Really got me through it, called an incredible game and we had a good game plan from the get-go, and having a guy like that back there the whole time really just allowed me to focus on executing pitches and nothing else."
Relying on and working with his catchers has been a theme of Marvel's rapid climb through the organization this season. In AA, Marvel would talk to the Curve's catchers, Jason Delay and Arden Pabst, throughout games, even when he was not pitching. He was trying to learn everything he could about opposing hitters. That continued after he made the jump to Indianapolis in July.
"I think he's always just looking for information," Steve Baron was telling me. Baron spent the season in AAA Indianapolis and caught Marvel there before being promoted in September. "He would ask questions. He's just prepared."
Stallings stressed being prepared as well. He had not caught Marvel before, not even in a minicamp or spring training, so he made it a point to be the one to catch his bullpen session this week since he suspected he would be paired with him in his debut. He was right.
"He's a smart guy, and he gave me a good idea of what he likes to do," Stallings was telling me. "I talked to Steve Baron a lot, just get a feel for what worked down in AAA so well."
That meant Stallings was the recipient of Marvel's questions and talks leading up to Sunday.
"He got here on Thursday, and pretty much every day he was in communication with me," Stallings said. "... We sat together during the game yesterday and talked about their hitters and their lineup. He already had notes ready. He had done his research.
"Smart guy. Very cerebral. Even though he went to Duke."
Oh yeah, that's right. The Blue Devil was throwing to a Tar Heel. Any college basketball flare-ups this weekend?