The Pirates did it. They finally won an interleague game against the Baltimore Orioles. Not that they couldn’t beat the O’s, but more of the fact that they seemingly can’t beat anyone in the American League. James McDonald struggled through 4.2 innings but the bullpen picked him up and the offense finally decided to break out and had 15 hits and nine runs for a 9-3 win on a night where the Pirates honored the 1971 World Series team.
If last night was a bad start for the Pirates then tonight was the total opposite. The Pirates scored three runs in the first inning and added single runs in the second and third for an early 5-0 lead. The Pirates, who had combined to only score seven runs in the four previous games, did much better than that, especially early.
After Jose Tabata and Josh Harrison led off with back-to-back singles in the first Garrett Jones, who was hitting in the three hole tonight, emptied the bases with a double to the right centerfield gap. After Andrew McCutchen moved him over with a bunt (in fairness it was a bunt for a base hit attempt that just went down as a sac) and Neil Walker drove him home with a sacrifice fly.
Jose Tabata got to bat for a second time in the second inning and drove home Ronny Cedeno with a double and Xavier Paul drove home Andrew McCutchen with a sacrifice fly in the in fourth.
Baltimore got on the board in a big way in the fifth inning. JJ Hardy and Adam Jones each homered (Jones’ was a two run bomb) to cut the lead to 5-3. Uneasy feeling if you are a Pirate fan at this point in the game.
The Pirates put the game out of reach for good in the seventh and eighth innings. Xavier Paul single through the left side to score Josh Harrison and push the lead back up to three. Tabata kept the party going in the eighth with a ball that was hit right back up the middle with runners on first and third. The problem was the ball actually hit Orioles reliever Brad Bergesen and bounced right to shortstop JJ Hardy who could record the force out at second base, although Matt Diaz (who got a hit!) scored. If it had not hit Bergesen it would have been Tabata’s third hit of the night, but alas it was just an RBI fielder choice.
A few batters later Neil Walker came up and officially but the game out of reach with a two RBI double down the left field line. That was Walker’s third RBI batted in for the game and puts him up to 49 for the season.
Finally a win for the Pirates in interleague play.
McDonald was just not very good tonight. He started off great with a nine pitch first inning and only threw 21 pitches after two innings but it was all down hill from there. He exited the game after pitching only 4.2 innings and throwing 104 pitches. Just not effective at all. He walked four guys and gave up seven hits, almost all of those after getting spotted five runs. I don’t know what has been going on with JMac but he needs to figure it out quickly. There are some innings he goes out and looks like he is ready to flip the proverbial switch and then there are other innings he looks like he couldn’t hit the strike zone if his life depended on it.
The offense finally busted out, in a big way. Every Pirates starter had at least a hit with five guys have two hits each and racking up 15 as a team. Tabata, Harrison, Walker, Cedeno and Michael McKenry all had two hits and it was a nice change of pace to have a consistent offensive threat on the base paths. It almost seemed that every inning someone was on base and looking to make a difference and during that same time they were also doing an excellent job of running the bases. Tabata was the highlight of the base running in the first inning. After his leadoff single Josh Harrison blooped a ball to right field that was really a tough ball to read. Tabata stayed right in the middle and waited to see what happened before he went one way or another. It gave him a chance to be safe either way and it paid off as he scored on the Jones double.
I know Andrew McCutchen went on a mini three or four game skid but it seems as if he is starting to get back into the groove. Tonight in five plate appearances he went 1-for-1 with a single. He drew three walks and had the aforementioned “sacrifice” bunt. If there is something that Andrew has been improving on it has to be his plate discipline and it is showing. Right now he is fourth in the National League in walks and that has helped push his OBP to .392 which is far and away the best on the team. It isn’t like McCuchen doesn’t want to hit, because he does. He was visibly frustrated after his second walk because he was not getting anything to swing at. Last year he might try to swing at pitches outside of the zone if he was getting pitched around. Not this year. Great to see.
The pen was exceptional tonight for the Bucs. Chris Resop, Tony Watson, Jose Veras and Tm Wood combined to go 4.1 innings, gave up one hit, no runs and struck out four. They also combined to throw 56 pitches where 38 of them went for strikes. The headliner was easily Resop. He came in and inherited runners on first and second with two outs in the fifth inning and shut the door before pitching a scoreless sixth inning. About a week or two ago there were a ton of people on twitter calling for Resop to be released and it boggles my mind to think you would want to do that. In his last 15 appearances Resop has pitching scoreless outing in 13 of those opportunities. Most teams would kill for production like that.
I also much touch on the fact that tonight was a celebration for the 1971 World Series team. Although I was not alive for that series it is still a part of Pirates history that I know all about. That was one of the best teams to every play for the Pirates and any time you hear Lumber Company you immediately think of that ‘71 team. Really cool that they got to be honored and I am glad the ceremony pushed the start back so I could see some of it on my extra innings package. Well deserved.
Overall it was just a really nice night and hopefully the Pirates can build on this for the day game tomorrow and get back to the .500 mark with a series victory. Remember it’s like a 9 a.m. start so get ready.