Saturday, May 21, 2011

Game 45 Recap: Pirates 6, Tigers 2

The Pirates won another impressive game tonight over the Tigers and extended their win streak to a season long four games and are only one game below the .500 mark. I have a good bit to say, so let’s get into the recap.

I must preface this with saying that Fox and Major League Baseball can go suck the fat one for what they did for the sport tonight. Saturday day games are a rarity anymore but since Fox had the Cubs/Red Sox game every other game that was a 7:05 p.m. start was blacked out. That means that one game was on TV and five other games were blacked out. I guess I missed the memo where there were only two teams playing tonight. This is an utter and complete joke that all those games were blacked out everywhere. Maybe I am missing something but MLB is not the NFL, they can use all the eyes on the game they can. I blame this just as much on MLB as I do Fox for shutting people out.

Kevin Correia did a really nice job tonight of pitching he went 6.2 innings and really only had one very small stretch of problems which was in the fourth inning when he gave up three straight doubles to give the Tigers a two run lead. Correia threw 96 pitches and threw 64 of them for strikes, but the most telling stat from the night was that he gave up no walks on the night. Only bad things happen when you give guys free bases and he didn’t do that. After back to back losses he came back strong, which is good. He gave up six earned to the Brewers last Sunday and four earned to the Dodgers on Tuesday but he was rock solid today.

Correia obviously wasn't on his best game, but that is what you need to do as a starting pitcher. When you don't have your best stuff you have to find a way to win and give your team a chance to win. KC did that tonight and I have mad respect for him for doing that. Here is his PitchFX chart:

As you can see he was a little all over the place. Whatever.
This team is just too much fun to watch and as this season goes on you can see more and more that this is a true “Pittsburgh team.” What I mean by that is that when the team gets down it doesn’t roll over like it might have in previous seasons, it comes back strong and fights for every single out. We have seen this all year and it makes this team a lot of fun to watch. Tigers starter Max Scherzer came into the game without a loss and although he got the better of the Pirates early they were able to scratch and claw and take the lead in the sixth inning.

The sixth inning I was talking about was a true thing of beauty if you are a true baseball fan. The inning led off with Andrew McCutchen and Jose Tabata both singling and then GFJ took the first pitch he saw down the right field line for a ground rule double and to put the Bucs on the board. Now, second and third with no outs and you are down by one you really want to at least tie the game with good situational hitting. Neil Walker hits a sacrifice fly and Lyle Overbay hits one of his own to give the Pirates a 3-2 lead. Great job by the Pirates taking what the opposing pitchers were going to give them and cashing in with runners in scoring position. Love to see it.

I must say that the play of the game might not be what most people thing, however. With runner on second and third and the Pirates down one Neil Walker hit a sacrifice fly to score Jose Tabata. GFJ was on second base and tagged and got to third base. This was a HUGE play if you ask me. It is pretty ballsy because the fly ball was hit to left center field and Jones isn’t the fleetest of feet on the bases. However, Jones realized that the centerfielder had his back turned when he made the catch and was in a poor throwing position and took the liberty to get to third base with only one out. Granted Ryan Doumit scored after the Overbay sacrifice fly to score Jones, but you don’t know that is going to happen. Getting to third base, as the go ahead run, with less than two outs is huge and heads up base running.

What was very reassuring was that the Pirates didn’t sit on the lead. They would go on to score three more runs in the seventh inning and once again it was getting runners on base to start the inning. What was curious about this inning was that Jose Veras pitched in the sixth and with only a one run lead he led off the seventh inning. I was questioning it until Veras walked on four straight pitches, on his first ever at bat. I guess I can’t question that, right? McCutchen singled then Tabata absolutely hit a laser right back up the middle to load the bases with no outs. Matt Diaz then did an excellent job of inside out hitting and doubled to right center field to score two.

If what Jones did on the bases was the play of the game then what Diaz did was second best. With one out Overbay struck out on a ball in the dirt and Matt Diaz made a dead ball read and tried to take second base with Tabata on third. The catcher does a great job of keeping the ball in front and has Diaz out by a mile. Diaz stops and gets into a run down and makes the Tigers throw theball a good six or seven times before he is out and is enough time for Tabata to score from third. Now on the surface this looks bad because obviously Diaz is out on the play but it is very heads up by Matt. If he goes into second base and gets tagged out they don’t score the run, but instead he realizes that he is going to be out, stops and gets into a run down to score the run. That is great heads up baseball and with the way the game ended made that fourth run even more important.

Andrew McCutchen is getting scary good at the plate. He was 3-for-4 tonight and has his average up to .259 after struggling for the first 30 games or so. Jose Tabata also is starting to turn it on at the plate with a 2-for-4 tonight and creeping his average to close to .250. No coincidence that the offense is starting to roll when those two start to get some hits and get on base.

This was a great win for the Pirates because they are beating a good team in the Tigers with a combination of hitting, defense and pitching but it was even sweeter because the place was full tonight. It was a standing room only sellout on Neil Walker bobble head night and the Pirates showed the city what they can do. This was a small glimpse of what the city can be like if/when the Pirates start contending over the next couple of years. This city will go wild for the Pirates and I think everyone is starting to get that taste that the Pirates are going to scrap and claw and play some hard baseball night in and night out.

The Pirate are going to be looking for the sweep tomorrow. The Pirates are back on the field in like six minutes. Get your mind right.

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