Sunday, July 24, 2011

Game 99 Recap - Pirates 4, Cardinals 3 (10 innings)

If I told you two months ago that the Pittsburgh Pirates would win a game against the St. Louis Cardinals to put them within a half game of first place on July 24th with Eric Fryer, Ronny Cedeno and Xavier Paul leading the charge what would you have said?

That is exactly what happened. Charlie Morton didn’t have his best stuff and couldn’t last six innings but the pen picked him up and the Pirates somehow scratched away enough runs, mostly due to a few doubles and then some speed, to salvage a series win after dropping the first two games.

The game was back and forth and honestly I had no idea if the Pirates were going to win this game. The best thing that could have happened in this game was that the Pirates could get into the Cardinals pen, which is terrible, to try and get some runs and that is exactly what happened. Cardinal starter Kyle Lohse only went five innings despite only throwing 64 pitches and the Cardinals threw out three relievers who combined to blow a save and then lose the game.

After trading runs through the first five innings the Cardinals took the lead, right before Morton was lifted, with a Colby Rasmus home run in the top of the sixth inning. This was bas an absolute missile to right field that was line drive that hit off the back fencing of the stands and bounced back into the field of play. Honestly it was probably the hardest ball hit at PNC Park all year.

The Pirates tied the game in the bottom of the seventh inning when Cendeno led off with a double and got to third on a bunt single by Fryer. Steve Pearce, who hit for the pitcher, grounded into a double play to score Cedeno.

Paul basically won the game for the Pirates all by himself. With one out he hit a ground ball to Albert Pujols who was playing deep at first base and beat the pitcher to the bag and earned an infield single. Paul then stole second base and advance to third when the throw to second went into center field. Chase d’Arnaud then drove him home with a sacrifice fly to centerfield to walk it off for the Pirates.

Thoughts:

-Pretty big win for the Pirates. After getting beat down pretty bad in the first two games it was a good character bounce back win. The Pirates pulled to within a half game of first place (Brewers will still playing as I wrote this) so I guess you can’t really say this was a terrible series. They went 3-3 against two NL Central teams and should have a good feeling after this win to go into a four game set with the Braves followed by a three game set with the Phillies. A tough stretch ahead but this team has pretty much defied every law of physics so far so who knows.

-Eric Fryer plays maybe once a week but he made a real claim today to get some more playing time. While neither of his hits left the infield he was pretty good at the plate and he was very good on the defensive end. The biggest of the defensive plays came in the eighth inning in a tie game. Gerrold Laird led off with a double but Fryer was able to pick him off second base as the Cardinals were trying to bunt him over to third base. He also threw out a would be base stealer earlier in the game on a pitch out. Solid work.

-You might not want to admit it, but Ronny Cedeno is having a really good season for the Pirates. He had two hits today, both doubles which led him to score two of the Pirates four runs. His glove was sorely missed when he was out with a concussion and he makes some tough plays look routine. The average might not be what everyone wants it to be, but to play defense like he has this year is worth it. With pitchers like Paul Maholm and Morton, who are heavy ground ball pitchers, you need to have good defense and Ronny really has solidified the infield this year.

-I don’t think it should be any secret that Paul hasn’t been getting a ton of opportunities this season and really hasn’t played that well, but that was a huge play in the 10th inning, the whole way around. He is probably going to be one of the first players gone if the Pirates trade for an outfielder or Jose Tabata comes back but he is willing to do anything to help the team win and that goes a long way. He might have only go in there as a defensive replacement late in the game and only had one at bat, but he made that at bat count as much as four would have through a regular game. This is how this Pirates team wins games and every team needs guys that are do the grit work and maybe don’t get a ton of playing time. Nice job by Paul and you have to respect that.

-The pen did another nice job today. Recent acquisition Jason Grilli came in and got out of a huge jam with 1.2 innings pitched and he only gave up one hits and struck out two. Chris Resop came in and gave up two hits but pitched a scoreless inning and Joe Beimel picked up his first win of the season with what might amount to his best outing of the season in the top of the 10th. Another great job.

-Like I said before this is going to be a really tough road stretch with seven against the Braves and Phillies. It is going to be a ton of fun to watch so buckle up.

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