McPherson delivers five scoreless innings vs. Phillies

McPherson delivers five scoreless innings vs. Phillies

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Pitching ruled early in Thursday's Grapefruit League matchup between the Phillies and Pirates at Bright House Field.

Pirates right-hander Kyle McPherson pitched effectively in a 2-1 loss. He allowed singles to Ryan Howard and Darin Ruf in the second inning and doubles to Chase Utley and Ender Inciarte in the fourth and fifth, respectively, but otherwise had no problems in five scoreless innings. Phillies right-hander Aaron Cook allowed one hit, one walk and struck out one in three scoreless innings. Inciarte saved him a run in the second when he threw out Brad Hawpe with a beautiful throw to the plate from center field.

Cook is expected to open the season with Triple-A Lehigh Valley, but his performance this spring matters as it is extremely rare for a team not to need a sixth starter at some point during the season. Phillies right-hander Rodrigo Lopez is competing with Cook to be the team's unofficial sixth starter, and he followed him on the mound. Lopez tossed two scoreless innings, allowing three hits and striking out one.

Phillies closer Jonathan Papelbon, who entered with a 27.00 spring ERA, pitched a 1-2-3 sixth inning, notching a pair of strikeouts.

Howard broke a scoreless tie with a sacrifice fly in the sixth, driving in his 13th spring run.

Pittsburgh tied it up in the seventh, when Neil Walker -- who had doubled and moved to third on a fly ball -- scored on a Phillippe Aumont wild pitch.

The Phils' Pete Orr hit a solo shot to right field in the eighth off former Philadelphia reliever Mike Zagurski for the game's decisive run.

Up next: The Pirates will face the Astros on Friday at 1:05 p.m. ET at Osceola County Stadium in Kissimmee, Fla. Fans can listen to a free exclusive webcast on pirates.com. Houston will send right-hander Brad Peacock to the mound to face left-hander Jonathan Sanchez, who's given up seven runs on eight hits and eight walks in four Grapefruit League appearances. Right-hander Jeanmar Gomez is also scheduled to pitch for Pittsburgh.

Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.