It was a pretty fun night to be a Pittsburgh sports fan. On the surface all it was is a Penguins game against the Devils and a Pirates game in St. Louis. When you factor in that the Devils might be the most boring team to watch in sports and the Pirates have been dreadful the past, oh, 18 years, you might think that the most exciting part of the night would be watching reruns of NCIS because there were no new episodes of that on. You were wrong. Great game by the Penguins and another close game by the Pirates who continue to stay in every game even though they didn’t play their best baseball tonight. Here are my quick thoughts on both games:
Penguins 4, Devils 2
Going in if I told you that this game would produce six goals you would have told me I was out of my mind. Just a few weeks ago both teams combined to go without a shot on goal for the first 13 minutes and the Penguins only won the game in a shootout, 1-0. Well, this game was much more exciting, in most fans minds.
Get ready for this. The Penguins scored a power play goal. I know, I am not kidding, it is not April 1st. Jordan Staal broke the score in the first with really pretty power move on Johan “Moose” Hedberg. The best part of the second period was the Penguins poise after the Devils tied the ballgame up. Dave Stekel tied the score about five minutes into the second period and the Penguins responded about a minute later with a goal, a lead which they would never give up. It is basically how the Penguins have been all season, grinding it out and capitalizing when they had to in order to score some goals. After the initial shot misses Pascal Dupuis punches in a rebound for the goal.
The Devils actually controlled play for much of the second period but MAF was just there to be huge. You can’t really say enough about what he has meant to this team since November. Sure he has had a bad night here and there, but this has been the most locked in I might have ever seen him over an extended period of time. By extended period of time I mean pretty much the entire season. He gave up two tonight on 24 shots, but he made some unbelievably timely saves and won this game for his team. He wasn’t jumping off the page with stats, but he doesn’t need to. MAF is not a stats guy, he just wins. Big game from him tonight.
Chris Kunitz welcomed a new member to the family when his wife gave birth. What does he do? Scores a goal. That is awesome. Good for him.
Great overall win. The Devils are not as bad as their record and they can play some awfully boring trap hockey when they get the lead so it was important for the Penguins not to get behind them, and they didn’t.
The Flyers dropped a contest to Ottawa tonight by the score of 5-2. The Penguins are one point back of the Flyers with only two games left to play. The Flyers play Buffalo and NY Islanders and the Penguins have the Islanders and Thrashers. The magic number for the Flyers is three since they will own the tiebreaker over the Penguins. Should be very interesting. Tampa Bay also lost which really gives the Pens a good inside shot at home ice advantage.
Cardinals 3, Pirates 2
Well, there is only so much you can do when your pitching staff walks a bunch of guys and you strike out a ton. It was obviously going to catch up with a team. Let’s not kid ourselves, the Pirates were going to lose again, it is just what happens.
The staff walked six, which includes four by James McDonald in only 4.2 innings of work and the Pirates struck out 11 times on the night. Not going to cut it, despite the fact that this was one of the worst home plate umpiring jobs I have seen in a while.
This was JMac’s first start of the season after a spring training that was riddled with a left side injury. He only went 4.2 innings, like I said before, and gave up two runs on four hits and also struck out four. He didn’t pitch great, but it wasn’t terrible. I saw mixed reactions from people on Twitter about what they thought on his first start and some were not impressed and some seemed to think this was a first start sort of thing that he will work thought. While I wasn’t particularly impressed with the start, it isn’t something that I am really concerned about. He didn’t have much control and really didn’t look comfortable to me but I am sure he will be fine.
Anytime we can give up only three runs we should win the ballgame. The Pirates bats went cold after the first inning when Lyle Overbay went deep after a Jose Tabata double. They collected seven hits and three walks. Not terrible, but when you strike out 10 times you could ask for a little more. Just putting five of those balls in play could make a difference. If one of those goes for an error it is a whole new ballgame. It happens sometimes. Whatever.
Pedro had another tough day at the plate, striking out three times. It should be no surprise to anyone that Pedro is struggling to start the season, but there are some things that I think he could be doing to make this a little bit easier on himself. Too many times tonight Pedro looked at first and second strike pitches that were right in the heart of the strike zone and didn’t swing. We are not talking about 96 mph pitches either, lost 90’s pitches. Maybe he isn’t comfortable yet, but I agree with Matt Bandi, who thinks that Pedro shouldn’t take any pitches and get three swings if the pitches are there. Eventually he is going to make some contact and it is going to go somewhere.
The pen was pretty good tonight. A total of 3.1 innings of work and only gave up three hits and a lone run. Chris Resop has turned out to be very solid going an almost perfect 1.2 innings of perfect innings only giving up one hit and throwing strikes on 16 of his 24 pitches. That is exactly what you want from a guy in the pen. Can’t tell it was only his third time out on the mound. Really excited to see him throw more this season in tough positions.
All in all a win tomorrow over the Cardinals tomorrow and think are going to be really good for the start of the season. This one just sucks a little more than others because the game was close and it was lost on a roll over by Albert Pujols in the seventh inning. Whatever. They will bring it tomorrow.