Saturday, June 11, 2011

Game 63 Recap - Pirates 3, Mets 2

James McDonald didn’t have his best stuff tonight but he was good enough to give the Pirates a chance to win and that they did beating the Mets 3-2 in front of the third biggest crowd ever at PNC Park.

The Mets got on the board first in the first inning when Ruben Tejada scored on a Daniel Murphy groundout. The Pirates tied the score in their half of the second inning when Garrett Jones hammered a double into the Northside Notch to score Neil Walker all the way from first base. The ball carried a good bit after it looked as if it were a routine fly out. I guess it doesn’t hurt that Jason Bay and Angel Pagan looked like they forgot their map trying to get through back country roads.

The Pirates took the lead for good in the third inning. With two outs Jose Tabata (who is still as hot as ever) singled and Josh Harrison walked (yes, that really happened, not a typo) to set the table for Andrew McCutchen who did not disappoint. McCutchen hit a ball down the left field line that hit off Mets third baseman Daniel Murphy and bounced into foul territory in right field. Both Tabata and Harrison scored. The play was scored a double but could have easily been ruled an error. Murphy kind of dove feet first somehow and the ball kicked off his foot into foul territory. The ball wasn’t hit terribly hard and should have been a play that is made, but I am not going to complain.

The Mets tagged on another run before Joel Hanrahan slammed the door shut, again.


James McDonald wasn’t very good tonight. He threw 86 pitches in six innings but only 52 of those pitches were strikes. He just didn’t seem to have it but instead of falling apart like he did in his last start he was able to gut it out and give the Pirates a chance to win. I know it is nice to have him come out and be great every start but that is just not reality. You are going to have rough starts and to me the telling sign of a good pitcher is what he does when he doesn’t have his best stuff. JMac did that and only gave up two runs as he picked up his fourth win of the season. Thanks to Tim from Pirate Prospects for brining up this tidbit after the game: If you take out McDonald’s first four starts of the season he is rocking a 2.84 ERA. Not too bad for missing all of spring training.

Tabata is just on fire. He continues to put the ball in play and collect hits after a sluggish May. His average is up to .268 after a 2-for-4 performance. One of those hits was a two out single that led to the McCutchen go ahead hit so I will take that.

The bullpen was outstanding again tonight. Tim Wood, Tony Watson, Jose Veras and Hanrahan all worked scoreless innings and combined to only give up two hits. Wood and Watson have only been up for like three days and they came in like veterans. Veras has been really hot and cold throughout the year and he was actually in between tonight. There were runners on second and third and Ronny Paulino was up at the plate with two outs. Veras was excellent and dropped a nasty curve to get Paulino looking.

Joel Hanrahan deserves his own blog for what he has done this season. He converted his 16th save in as many chances and nobody on the Mets that hit in the ninth really had any chance to touch him let alone get a hit. I know throughout a season closers are going to blow saves. Hanrahan is going to probably blow one or two this season and I would be foolish to think that he wasn’t going to, that is just how baseball works. With all that being said I don’t see anyone in baseball that is going to do that to him right now. He is on another level and it has to be frightening to see him on the mound when you are trailing. His fastball was the pitch of the night but his slider might even be better this season. It is just scary good. We always talk about the steal that brought James McDonald to the Pirates from the Dodgers but I give just as much credit to Neal Huntington for the deal that brought Hanrahan to the Pirates from Washington. He might be the best closer in baseball right now.

Jones picked up two hits today in his first action in some time. He had the huge hit to get the party started and then supplied a single later in the game. His average is only sitting at .238 and his OPS is a mere .758 while losing playing time to Xavier Paul and Matt Diaz. Jones picked up a huge pinch hit double the other night and two more hits today so that should earn him a little more playing time.

I talked about the sellout in the intro but I just want to touch on it again. The place was rocking in the ninth when Hanrahan was on for the save and Dejan Kovacevic even noted that in a tweet:

DK then talked to Wyatt Toregas, who made his first start behind the plate for the Bucs tonight, after the game and he said this:

I have said this a few times before but this is a baseball city and the fans are ready for this team to be good. You could feel it in the Phillies series and you could feel it tonight. Sure, tonight was a Skyblast night and Huey Lewis and the News but the fans were really into the game. If the Pirates keep playing like they have been it is going to be a fun summer even if the Steelers do show up in training came at Latrobe. Yes, I really did say that.

Back at it again tomorrow for the Bucs. Nothing like a good Sunday day game. Trying to get back even at the .500 mark.

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