Ya, I have no idea how to even begin to talk about this game. The Pirates won a game that was so poorly managed that I think both teams were trying to outdo one another but in the end it was Clint Barmes and Josh Harrison that came through for the Pirates in the 12th inning to give the Bucs their second series win in a row.
Brad Mills, the Astros manager really outdid himself today. It first actually started in the top of the seventh inning. Wandy Rodriguez was throwing a gem but came up with the bases loaded and two outs with the Astros up 2-1. I actually thought it was a good call to keep Rodriguez in but a lot of people thought that Rodriguez should have been pulled for a pinch hitter to try and knock in another run. I don't know, Rodriguez was rolling and only gave up three hits, one after the first inning, and was dominating the Pirates. That wasn't really where Mills fumbled it though. Going to the bottom of the ninth Rodriguez only had 94 pitches but instead of sending him back out there Mills brought on his closer Brett Myers to close it out. What does Myers do? Blow the save. This is why the save is a terrible way to manage your pitching staff. Rodriguez goes out there and probably gets the complete game win, instead the Astros lose. No idea why it was so dead set that Rodriguez stayed in the seventh inning but couldn't pitch the ninth because it was a save situation.
Clint Hurdle managed this game just as bad as Mills. After Pedro Alvarez tied the game in the ninth inning with a sacrifice fly and still had runners on first and second with one out. Instead of keeping Casey McGehee in the game he pinch hits for him with Nate McLouth. McLouth strikes out looking on a pitch literally right down the middle. I have no idea why you send McLouth up there. Pinch hitting is fine but Nate has been really bad this year. Because Hurdle had already used Garrett Jones earlier in the game and McGehee was out that meant that Yamaico Navarro could play first base. That would have been good except that after the McLouth strikeout Hurdle pinch hit Alex Presley for Navarro. So there was nobody else to play first base. That meant that Rod Barajas had to play first base. Yes, for real. After Barajas singled in the 10th Hurlde used his last bench player, Barmes, to run for Barajas. This left no player in the Pirates lineup that has ever played first base. Barmes played the position and luckily didn't have to do anything for two innings. That also meant the Pirates had no bench players as of the 10th inning. Moreover Hurdle was only using relievers for one inning when they could pitch more than one inning. The Pirates finished the game with only two reliever left and the Pirates only pitched 12 innings. What was Hurdle going to do if this game went 15 or 16 innings? Just really shoddy managing from Hurdle and the Pirates won despite him today.
The Pirates offense struggled for much of the day again. Luckily for them A.J. Burnett was pretty lights out going eight innings and only giving up two runs on six hits. He only struck out four but this was another really good outing for him and really makes that Cardinals disaster a blip on the radar.
The offense managed only seven hits and struck out 13 times. At one point between the 10th and 11th innings they struck out five straight times. The offense has just been terrible for most of the season but somehow they get the big hits when they need them and that is all you can ask for. This was a pretty dirty win all things considered but you know what, dirty wins and clean wins all count the same and right now the Pirates are 16-18 after playing arguably the toughest schedule in baseball.
I know I might sound kind of negative about this game as a whole but a win is all that really matters. I really think the offense can't be this bad the whole year. I do think that Barajas and Barmes will improve and that the Pirates will go on a streak of hot hitting for a couple of weeks so that should help.
I know a lot of people are worried about what happened last year with the pitching staff but I think this year is totally different than what the Pirates had last year. In 2011 the Pirates were a staff full of guys that pitched to contact and they rarely struck anyone out. This year they have Burnett and Erik Bedard that can strike out eight or ten guys a start and with the way James McDonald has been pitching this is more of a strikeout staff than it is a pitch to contact staff. Why does that matter? Well, when you pitch to contact you are going to rely more on luck that those balls are going to be hit to your guys and use your defense much more than if you can strike out guys. With the Pirates having a pretty bad defense a pitch to contact staff would have went way downhill like last year but with three of the five spots being occupied by more strikeout guys that gives you a much better chance at not totally falling off a cliff. I don't think that the Pirates will keep up pitching this well all year (second best ERA) but I do think that they will not go from really good to really terrible like last year.
A win is a win. If the offense gets hot and the pitchers can throw around the way they are now then this is going to be a lot of fun through the summer.