The Pirates scored double figure runs via a six run sixth inning and the Pirates cruised after that with great work from starter Jeff Karstens and a flawless pen.
It was a really nice win for the Pirates in front of a really good sized crowed in interleague play. The Pirates have been terrible in interleague play since it started but really played a nice ballgame tonight.
Here are my thoughts on a win that got the Pirates to 21-23 on the season and started a winning streak:
-Jeff Karstens was again very good tonight. He took a no hitter into the fifth inning and really didn't have much trouble all night. He did himself a lot of favors early in the game by throwing under 10 pitches in each of the second, third and fourth innings and only threw 41 pitches through four innings. He only threw 75 innings through six innings but he was starting to tire and get hit around a little bit so it was a good hook by Hurdle.
As you can see Karstens did a nice job of throwing strikes and even when he was out of the zone he was missing around the strike zone. He got some ground balls and made it easy on his defense and really did a nice job all game.
-One thing the Pirates have been doing an excellent job at over the past couple of game is two out hitting and tonight was no different. The game was close tonight and after the Tigers tied it up in the sixth inning the Pirates blew up in the bottom half of the sixth. They scored six runs in that inning and batted around the order. After Lyle Overbay finally hit one out of the park the Pirates to lead off the inning. The Pirates then scored five more runs, four with two outs, to give them some breathing room.
Matt Diaz hit into a fielders choice to score Brandon Wood, which gave the Tigers two outs and they were only down 3-1. Jose Tabata then worked a two out walk and GFJ and Neil Walker both doubled to the left center gap, both scoring two runs.
I have been uber impressed with the Pirates ability to hit with two outs and runners in scoring position the past week or so, especially late in games. The score was 3-1 and with the Tigers lineup that could easily turned into a loss for the Pirates but GFJ and Walker really "clutched up" and gave the Pirates the insurance runs they needed. Last year this stuff didn't happen and it is really refreshing that the Pirates can do this late into games. That may be the difference between the 57 win team last year and a 75 win team this year.
-The Pirates did a great job of working the count tonight. Brad Penny, who has been good all year, was having some control problems and the Pirates were able to take some walks and make Penny throw a lot of pitches. Even when the Pirates got into the Tigers pen they were able to work the count and Tabata drew a walk which led directly to the big inning from GFJ and Walker. The Pirates didn't take many walks last season and plate discipline is something they have had a problem with in the past so this is nice to see. Actually, this whole season they have done a pretty good job of taking the free pass. Refreshing to see.
Ryan Doumit continues to swing the bat well. He drove in the Pirates first run with two outs and runners on first and second (another two out RISP hit) to break the ice in the fourth inning. I know some people are talking about him being trade bait, but I really don't see it. I mean he can hit the baseball, but he doesn't have a defensive position and he is really only a left handed bat (who is a switch hitter). I must admit that he has become a great clubhouse guy who has really taken onto his role with the team, much like Karstens is with his role. Those are types of guys you like to have on the team and really makes things click, even if he doesn't bring anything to the table defensively.
-Jose Tabata had a really nice night. He has been in an extended slump and he was really good at the plate tonight. 2-for-3 with two walks and three runs scored. I will take that every day of the week. Hopefully this gets him kicked started after a nice past couple of games.
-Neil Walker is proving that last year was not a fluke. Two more hits and five RBI on the night and hit another home run. With two outs (hmm, where have I seen this talked about before?) he hammered a pitch to right field with two runners on via a walk (hmm, where have I seen this talked about before) and a hit. Both of his hits were with two outs, both were extra base and both drove in multiple runs. Great game for the hometown boy.
-With all of the praising I did of the hitters so far there has been something increasingly frustrating that I have been watching (and no, I am not talking about bunting). The Pirates have been terrible the past couple of weeks when they get runners in scoring position and less than two outs. Twice tonight they got runners on first and second with less than two outs and the next batter struck out. Sure the offensive explosions have been really nice but they need to start at least moving runners over with good at bats and not striking out. I talked about it the past couple of nights but the offense needs to be much more consistent.
-The Pirates really have some good confidence going right now. You could really tell at the beginning of this game that they felt good after the two game sweep of the Reds. During the losing streak the Pirates looked beat but tonight was very different, especially with the fifth starter on the mound. This is just another reason I think this team is different, and why I think they have come a long way from last year. If this was 2010 I think we might still be on that losing streak.