What a win for the Pirates. You name it and it happened in the game today. Seemed as if neither team wanted to win but someone had to. Another road win for the battling Buccos and they push their record to 7-8 on the season.
The Bucs started the game off right by doing something that they have only done the three times in their storied history. Andrew McCutchen and Jose Tabata went back-to-back to lead it off. Can’t really think of a better way to start off the game. Well, now that I think about it back-to-back triples would probably be more fun for me to watch, but two runs on two swings are OK by me. The Pirates tacked on two more runs with a bases loaded walk by Chris Snyder and a sacrifice fly by Ronny Cedeno fo the early four spot.
It was pretty important for the Pirates to get on the board early. As Fox Sports Ohio pointed out after the first inning that Edinson Volquez has something like a 29.00 ERA in the first inning of games this season and then it dips to something like 1.20 for the rest of the innings. Unreal. Luckily the Pirates were able to exploit that and did a really nice job of getting the two extra runs after the McCutchen and Tabata back-to-back shots.
Jeff Karstens gave us a typical Karstens start and went 4.1 innings and gave up five runs, all earned while striking out six. If you were in the live chat during the game when he trotted out for the fifth inning I had made the comment that they (the Pirates) should have the pen ready because when it goes bad for Jeff it goes bad pretty fast. They didn’t and it did. Not to take anything away from Jeff because he is pretty good at his role as spot starter and long relief guy, but this is exactly why he isn’t in the rotation. Just can’t seem to get over the proverbial hump. He got yanked and was charged with giving up three runs in the fifth and giving the Reds the lead back. Could have been a lot worse but I think he should have been hooked quicker. Getting four innings was good and you had to know you were going to use the pen a good bit with a spot starter.
The Reds did a nice job of chipping away early. They scored single runs in the second and fourth before the offensive explosion in the fifth inning. That said looking at the line it could have been a lot worse. The Reds strung together a lot of hits and had a few homeruns, luckily all of them were solo shots. No idea where I am going with this. Whatev.
The Pirates offense was pretty good today despite Volquez being solid after the first inning. The Pirates put up nine hits, which is a decent amount and also speaks to the quality of the hits as they scored seven runs. They also collected eight walks. Last year a big problem of this team was earning free passes. They are a team with a bunch of players that are “free swingers” so it is refreshing to see that they are drawing some free passes this season. The Pirates also stole three bases in four attempts and would have been four-for-four but Cutch slid past second base and was tagged out. Good to see them being aggressive on the bases.
Gotta give a lot of props to Joel Hanrahan too. He earned a five out save, which is something that is not too common to see from a team’s closer. Usually these guys come in after a warm up, face the batters and then they are done. Closers are not used to going to the mound, going into the dugout then going back out there. Harahan wasn’t totally solid, but he was still good. There were some reports that he hit 102 on a pitch, but I think that pitch was well out of the zone, but who cares, 102 is gas. He was regularly at 97-98 and in a closer situation it is tough for a hitter to adjust to that after facing 90-92. Nice job by Hanny.
Pedro Alvarez is struggling something serious right now. His head is not right and much of the time today he is guessing at what pitch is coming and is very off balance when he is swinging at strikes. Almost would be easy to tell Pedro to just see the ball and hit the ball and not think too much. I’d like to see him hit the ball hard the other way and take some good cuts on good pitches but he is just not there yet. He is a notorious slow starter so this isn’t shocking for me, but still sucks. I know he is working hard and he doesn’t like to struggle like this so he will come out of it. I am sure when he does it will be in a big way.
I sometimes want to know what goes through Ronny Cedeno’s head when he does stupid things (almost every game) but then I realize I do not want to do that. If you thought that there were players that had money on MLB games then Ronny had money on this one. Let me set the stage for you. Top of the eighth inning, game tied and GFJ starts the inning off with a single. Chris Snyder square to bunt (which I don’t like) and fouls it off. The Reds then pitch out on the second pitch and GFJ is running, luckily for the Pirates the Red fail hard and don’t even get a throw off. Awesome, runner on second, no outs and here you bunt. Chris Snyder puts down a terrible bunt and Reds pitchers Logan Ondrusek can’t field it. Perfect. First and third, no outs, Ronny is up, who leads the NL in sacrifice flies. Ronny bunts, on his own and Jones get thrown out at the plate.
I know you are probably asking how I know that it wasn’t a squeeze play? Well on a squeeze play the runner on third base breaks for home as soon as the pitcher is at the “point of no return” (meaning that the pitch is almost out of his hand and he can’t much control where the pitch is so he can’t throw a pitch out) Jones would have ran and would have easily scored with the bunt Cedeno put down. Jones actually waited until the ball was on the grass before running and therefore we know this was not a squeeze play. I actually wouldn’t have minded a squeeze play there to put some pressure on the defense. I really don’t even mind Ronny bunting there to put pressure on the defense and apply some pressure, but in my scenario GJF would have just stayed put.
If it wasn’t getting bad enough for Ronny he made it even worse that same inning. After the bunt scenario it was Chris Snyder on second and Ronny on first with Cutch up with two outs. Cutch does a great job of getting a two strike hit to left and Snyder, although not the most fleet of foot, was going to score easy. What does Ronny do? He runs from first to third and nearly gets thrown out. It was a very close play and if he is out that go-ahead (and eventual winning) run doesn’t score because Snyder was still a few feet from the plate (and he wasn’t pulling up, he is kinda slow). That was a horrible bonehead play that could have cost the Pirates. You can’t do stuff like that and expect to win. He should have been replaced right then and there.
There were so many other things in this game that were dumb, by both teams. This was a sloppy game and at times it felt like neither team wanted to win. Last year the Pirates lose this game in the 8th and 9th inning. Nice to see them winning this ball game. I will take them any way I can get it. The Pirates now have six road wins after having only 17 total last year. Unreal. Look for the series win tomorrow with nothing less than a tie.