Saturday, June 25, 2011

Game 76 Recap - Pirates 6, Red Sox 4

The Pirates took a series from the Red Sox for the first time ever in front of a record crowd at PNC Park with a 6-4 win. Jeff Karstens went almost seven innings and put the team in position to win and the offense picked him up with another good showing. This is fun, isn’t it?

The Red Sox once again started the scoring off, for the second straight night, this time getting two runs before the Pirates were able to crack the scoreboard. Dustin Pedroia took a one out walk from Karstens and then stole second base and advanced to third while the Michael McKenry hit off Pedroia and went into left field. He then scored on a Kevin Youkilis ground out.

Adrian Gonzalez, the best hitter in baseball, took Karstens deep in the third inning to left center field with two outs to give the Sox the two run lead. I will tell you something, left field at PNC Park is big and as a left handed batter it would be tough to get a ball out in left center field but that is how good Gonzalez is. He has power and there is a reason he is leading the league in hitting and RBI’s. Thank God there was nobody on base.

The Pirates then got their offense kick started off former Pirate Tim Wakefield. In the fourth inning the Pirates scored four runs and did exactly what they did the night before, bounced back on the second time through the order. Andrew McCutchen reached on a one out infield single and then advanced to second when Neil Walker took a walk. Lyle Overbay then absolutely crushed a hanging knuckleball to the seats in right field for a three run bomb. This ball was a few rows from leaving the yard completely and it was great to see from Overbay who has struggled at the plate.

The inning was a success as it was with the bomb from Overbay but it got a ton better when Karstens picked up his first career RBI, singling up the middle to score Ronny Cedeno (who followed Overbay’s home run with a double). As someone on twitter noted this was the only thing that Karstens ever did for the Yankees.

The Pirates added on another run in the fifth inning when Chase d’Arnaud scored after an impressive infield single where he used his speed to beat out a throw from Pedroia. After d’Arnaud got on Garrett Jones doubled to deep right center field and then Andrew McCutchen drove home Chase when he hit a routine ground ball to Pedroia who let it go right under his glove. Unfortunately the Pirates could not make the Sox pay more, but they got an additional insurance run.

I thought Karstens might be done after 90 some odd pitches in the sixth inning but he came back out for the seventh and gave up a leadoff home run to Josh Reddick. OK, now the game is still at two runs, not a big deal, but Clint Hurdle keeps him out there. Ballsy decision but it seems to pay off as he gets the next two outs. Karstens has a chance to really put a stamp on his start but Jacoby Ellsbury took him deep for a solo shot to make it a one run game. Tough decision by Hurdle, but I can’t really knock it, he was one batter away from essentially stealing an inning. I would have pulled him after the first base runner, but I am just a blogger.

The Pirates do what they have done all year, answer the bell after they have been scored on. Jones took a one out pitch to deeeeeeeep right center field to give the Bucs a two run lead with only six out left to get. That was a huge insurance run.

Tim Wood and Tony Watson came in and did what they have done all year, get outs, and then Hanrahan came in for the ninth and struck out the best hitter in baseball with a runner on second with a filthy slider.

Thoughts:

This win was in front of a record crowd at PNC Park. 39,483 packed PNC Park to see another win and another win over the best team in baseball, arguably, in the Red Sox. The fans were into it and any time the Sox fans (who showed up in force again tonight) tried to get loud they would drown them out. It was awesome.

I talked about the balanced offense from the Pirates and they did it again tonight. The hits were spread out through the order and they got the clutch ones when they needed it. Jones and Ronny Cedeno were the only Pirates with multiple hits and they only had eight as a team, but it didn’t matter. They made the hits they got count and paired with good pitching that is all it takes to win games.

Karstens gave the club another great effort tonight and put the team in a position to win. He threw a season high 109 pitches in 6.2 innings and walked three batters so that should put in perspective how good he was when he got in trouble. There were just a few times that it could of got away from him, but he got big pitches when he needed them and it was great to see. He gave up four runs, only three earned, and two of those were on the two solo home runs in the seventh inning so that should really put in perspective.

Tony Watson is easily the most underrated pitcher that the Pirates have. I don’t care what anyone says, this dude has been outstanding all year. He just comes in and gets huge outs and he has been with the team for all of like five minutes. Neal Huntington does a great job of putting a pen together and you can’t doubt that.

If guys like Overbay and Jones start to get going with power this offense could really start to turn around. A month ago both of these guys were automatic outs and now they are really starting to put the ball in play and putting the ball into the gaps, especially Jones. The team is good when those guys and guys like Ronny Cedeno put the ball in play and make things happen at the bottom of the lineup.

I really don’t know how the Pirates are doing this after how bad they were last year, but this is a ton of fun to watch. If you don’t think that Pittsburgh can be a baseball town then you are out of your mind. I know we aren’t even half way into the season, and I don’t think the Pirates will be in the NL Central run later in the season but it is really fun to see them only three games out at the end of June. It is just fun to be part of the ride. I have said it for years that management was on the right track with what they were doing with the organization and you are starting to see the fruits of that even with Pedro Alvarez not in the lineup and with some subpar play from a number of players for wide stretches this season.

Going for the sweep tomorrow, Get it.

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