I guess we can honestly say that we do know what it feels like to seemingly own a team for some period of time. For whatever reason the Reds can not beat the Pirates. The Bucs did it again today with some good baseball and "swept" (I guess you call winning a two games series a sweep, no idea why we played back-to-back two game series' anyways)the Reds by a 5-3 margin. The Bucs have won five of their first six match ups with the Reds, all at GABP. Not bad.
James McDonald pitched a pretty nice game, after a rough start, and went almost seven full innings and threw just over 100 pitches. To be honest if you just watched the first and second innings you would have been shocked if JMac went four innings. He was all over the place and threw 27 pitches in the first inning and you just didn't have a good feeling about it.
What seemed to turn the tide for JMac was actually a home run that he gave up to Jay Bruce (he always kills the Pirates) with one out in the second inning. To be honest you wouldn't have known that it happened had you not seen it. The next two batters were quick outs and he was in the dugout. That was all that JMac would give up. He scattered seven hits and struck out four. What is most surprising is that he only threw 13 first pitch strikes out of 25 batters.
Here is the plot from pitchfx of JMac's pitches
As you can see here there were a lot of those pitches that were well up in the zone. Most of those occurred early in the game. In the first inning JMac only threw 59% of his pitches strikes and in the third it was down to 58%. After that he was stellar.
It was encouraging to see that JMac was getting stronger as the game went on, but as we saw in the plot above he wasn't really missing "around the zone" when he was missing. It could have been worse but hopefully this is another step in him being dominant like he was when he got here last season.
The offense did a pretty decent job today. The most encouraging came when they scored their first runs. Ronny Cendeno and JMac both struck out to start the fifth inning but the Pirates would go on to score three runs that inning. Andrew McCutchen laced a baseball into the right center field gap and that was followed by a single by Xavier Paul, a walk to Garrett Jones and a double on a 3-2 pitch by Neil Walker.
Hits like the ones from McCutchen and Walker are huge. One gets an inning started after two straight strikeouts and the other drives in two huge runs to kind of break a game open. The best part about the hits is that they are coming from the young guys. Love to see it.
Ryan Doumit made his presence felt (in a good way) with a home run in the sixth inning and then McCutchen doubled home a pair in the eighth to put the game pretty much away.
Although Pedro Alvarez was 0-2 on the day I thought he had a nice day at the plate. He wasn't striking out and he took two walks, one of which he scored on. He seems to be gettin more comfortable in the plate and is really starting to lay off some close pitches that he normally would swing at. He is working the count more and if he can start to draw some walks that is going to go a long way in helping him see some good pitches.
The Pirates will start interleague play against the Tigers tomorrow at PNC Park. The Pirates are horrible in interleague play since it started up so hopefully they can buck the trend and play some winning baseball both at home and against the American League.