After being pretty much dominated yesterday by the Cardinals the Pirates came out and played a really nice game tonight against the Red Birds and earned a 2-0 win. As it has been all season the pitching really carried the team and Pedro Alvarez stepped up with some clutch at bats to lead the team to victory.
I don’t think you really need to go any farther in this recap without saying how absolutely great A.J. Burnett was tonight. He was supposed to make his last rehab start in Altoona tonight but Kevin Correia came down with some side soreness that forced Burnett to pitch tonight and boy did he show up. He was pretty bad in his two rehab starts but you didn’t see any of that tonight. Burnett threw seven shutout innings, striking out seven while only giving up three hits and two walks. He was amazingly efficient only throwing 76 pitches and what makes that even more remarkable is that the threw 24 of those pitches in the first inning. Burnett issued two walks and a hit in the first three batters of the game but didn’t give in as he got two straight strikeouts and a lineout to get out of the inning. I know this is only one game and is a really small sample size in the grand scheme of things but this game is the exact reason I loved the deal when it happened. It is really great to finally have a pitcher that can get that big strikeout when they need it. Just a great outing by Burnett.
While we are talking about good things we can touch on the night Alvarez had. This was his first two hit night of the season and he collected a pair of singles which were his first non-home run hits of the season which finally gives him a batting average on balls in play. The single in the fourth inning was an infield single to third base where the ball was hit pretty hard and it scored Andrew McCutchen and the insurance run came in the sixth inning on a hard hit ball through the right side to score McCutchen again. In the last handful of games he has really had good at bats and that was true tonight also. He was laying off the pitches that he normally swings at and was waiting for pitches he could handle and had some really good AB’s tonight. He was even let on to face a lefty in the eighth and hit a pitch pretty hard to dead center that was caught on the track. Hopefully he can continue this but he looks like he has been improving as the season as gone on.
While I didn’t agree with Clint Hurdle pulling Burnett after seven innings and only 76 pitches he went to a bullpen that has been outstanding so far this season. I would have kept Burnett in since he was supposed to throw 100 pitches in his rehab start and probably could have been under that in a complete game but for whatever reason he wasn’t in there. Juan Cruz came in and got an out despite giving up two hits and then Tony Watson and Jason Grilli came in and each got strikeouts to end the threat and Joel Hanrahan came in and got the save despite waling two batters and throwing 20 pitches.
One thing that really was a terrible decision came in the eighth inning. With two outs there were two runners on with Alex Presley occupying second and Jose Tabata was on first base with McCutchen up and there were two outs. With a 1-2 count McCutchen takes ball two but Presley and Tabata went on the double steal and Tabata was caught trying to steal second. I at first thought this call came from the bench but it turns out that those two ran on their own which makes it an even worse decision. Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina is one of the best in the league and threw out Tabata on the back side of the double steal and ended the inning. Not really sure why those two ran but I put that solely on Presley. As the lead runner he would have gave a sign to Tabata to let him know he would be running so that, in effect, made it a double steal but it never should have happened.
A little piece of information that is pretty telling on the night was that the Cardinals three and four hitters, Matt Holliday and Carlos Beltran went a combined 0-for-7 with six strikeouts. Those are some top notch hitters that didn’t get anything done. Really great job by the Pirates staff to get it done.
The Pirates are back at it tomorrow to try and win another series.