Aramis Ramirez wasted no time getting acquainted with PNC Park as he sent one into the right field seats off of starter James McDonald. Whatever.
Neil Walker bounced back and got the Pirates on the board in the third inning in somewhat of an unconventional way. With the bases loaded Walker hit a ball up the middle and second baseman Darwin Barney got a glove on it and tried to make the play to first. Walker beat the throw by literally a toes length. On the play Alex Presley scored from third AND Chase d’Arnaud scored from second without even drawing a throw from first baseman Carlos Pena.
The Cubs retook the lead in the sixth inning. After McDonald left runners on second and third Chris Resop gave up a double on a 0-2 pitch to Alfonzo Soriano. Cubs retake the lead.
The Bucs answered right back as
The Cubs came right back and took advantage of a subpar Jose Veras and scored a single run when Barney drove in Marlon Byrd with a single to left field.
What happened in the eighth inning is what good teams do. They scratch and claw and take games from other teams when they are the better team. Matt Diaz actually led the inning off with a terrific plate appearance and drew a walk where he was then pinch ran for by Pedro Ciriaco. McCutchen flew out to right field for the first out of the inning. Neil Walker then did the last thing that the Pirates needed in this situation, a double play ball. The turn was pretty good but just when Starlin Castro went to throw to first he was forced into a terrible throw by Ciriaco that left Neil Walker safe at first base. Lyle Overbay then singled to put two runners on. Birthday boy Josh Harrison then took the first pitch he saw from Marmol and slapped it into centerfield to barely score Walker and tie the game. Perfect, they will at least turn the order over for the ninth and there is a chance. McKenry comes up with two on and quickly gets behind the at bat 0-2. I don’t think anyone can explain what happens next but Marmol fires three straight 0-2 pitches right in the middle of the plate. The third of those three pitches McKenry finally caught up to and took it deeeeeeeeeep to left field for a three run bomb, his first home run of his career.
If you could hit walk off home runs when you were playing at home then that is what McKenry did. Joel Hanrahan with a three run lead is about as good as it gets to being over.
It was over. Game.
-This is one of the biggest wins in PNC Park history, in front of another sellout crowd. The reason this game was big was because this could have been for first place in the NL Central. Because of the Reds collapse the Pirates will have to wait for another day to lay claim to first place but it was an awfully incredible game to watch. For much of the game it just kind of seemed like the Pirates were going through the motions and were very lax but they came up huge when they needed to.
-I really can’t say enough about McKenry. Numerous times on here I say that just because of his defensive ability he is worthy of having and he has truly been great since coming over from Boston. He hasn’t been the best offensively, but he doesn’t need to be. He does a great job of working with the pitchers and I haven’t seen a catcher in some time that can receive the baseball like he can. He is very good in his defensive game and he buys strike calls on a nightly basis. That being said he has been getting much better at the plate. Over the past week he has been just missing some pitches and flying out to the warning track. Tonight he finally broke through that wall and took one deep. 411 feet to be exact and he was rewarded with a curtain call from the Pirates faithful. Well deserved.
-While McKenry’s hit was the biggest of the night what led up to it was just as important. Ciriaco was brought into the game for his speed and to score the winning run. He doesn’t get on the field much and rarely is in the game when it is close but he made a huge play to break up the double play. Walker hasn’t been swinging the stick well and that double play would have ended the inning but Ciriaco kept the inning alive. The guys in the dugout appreciate it and it might not show up in the stat line but it should. In the same respect Lyle Overbay clearly is going to get looked over. After Walker reached Overbay quickly singled to the left side to keep the inning going. He hasn’t been good at the plate but that was one of the biggest hits he had all season. Harrison needs some love too. Marmol is one of the best at what he does and Harrison knew he was going to see a good pitch early and took his chance. It worked and assured a tie game. Huge inning from those three players.
-McDonald was so-so tonight. He struggled through innings and although he didn’t give up many runs he worked his pitch count very high to prohibit how deep he could go into the game. McDonald only went 5/2 innings and threw 99 pitches. He gave up only three earned runs and scattered five hits so you can’t really say it was a terrible start. While the starts McDonald has aren’t pretty, they get the job done and give the team a chance to win. That is all I care about.
-The pen wasn’t very good for much of the night but they got by. Both Resop and Veras had off nights but Daniel McCutchen was there to pick them up. McCutchen came in with the Bucs down one and the bases loaded with two outs and got the final out of the inning to keep the game within reach. Great job by DCutch and of course Hanrahan was his typical self nailing down his 26th save in as many chances.
-It was Harrison’s birthday today and he took full advantage. He collected three hits in four at bats and drove in the tying run. Not a bad birthday.
-Andrew McCutchen is really good at baseball.
Another game tomorrow night against Cubs.