The Pirates came out and got behind the eight ball against the Cardinals and then just unleashed their bats on the host and used the home run to defeat the Cards in the first game of a three game series. For a team that hasn't had home run power in the recent past it is a lot of fun to see them hit home runs with some kind of consistency and right now it is winning them ballgames.
The game in total was really weird for the first few innings. The Pirates had Kevin Correia on the bump going against Adam Wainwright. Although Wainwright doesn't have the greatest numbers this year he has pitched really well and was a stud in 2010 before missing 2011 with Tommy John surgery. Needless to say I wasn't very excited about the prospect of this game from the start, luckily the Pirates were able to grab it.
Things started off right in the first inning with a pair of runs on a two out hit by Neil Walker. I know I have been kind of hard on Walker the past week but he is right in the middle of one of his hot streaks and its as huge to come up with runners on second and third and two outs and get those two runs in to give the Pirates an early lead.
Correia blanked the Cardinals in the bottom half of the first inning but it got pretty ugly after that for them. The Cards got one back in the second when Allen Craig scored after doubling to lead off the inning and then in the third inning the game broke open. After Correia gave up a leadoff walk and a single he struck out Matt Holliday but gave up a RBI hit to Carlos Beltran. The hit by Beltran drove in a run but more importantly it was his 2,000th career hit. Beltran is a very good player and got a much deserved standing ovation from the St. Louis crowd.
Wouldn't have been bad if they didn't get much more than that but Craig came up and blasted a ball into the left centerfield seats for a three run bomb that made the score 5-2 and if you were a Pirates fan you really couldn't feel good about where this game was going. I am not going to lie I was pretty much resigned to the fact that the Pirates weren't going to be able to come back from this but boy am I glad I was wrong.
The Pirates got back on the grind in a big way starting in the fifth inning. The Pirates were able to load the bases with two outs and up came Pedro Alvarez. He started the game with two pretty bad at bats but it didn't matter as he took the first pitch, an inside fastball, and clubbed it down the first field line for a bases clearing, game tying, double. Just feels great that you can get the kind of production out of Pedro.
The sixth inning really put the game in the Pirates hand as they went deep three times and scored four runs to take a four run lead, a lead that they wouldn't give up. It all started with a Clint Barmes leadoff home run and then was followed by a pinch hit home run by Alex Presley. I mean, for real, back-to-back jacks from Barmes and Presley? That was the second game that the Pirates went back to back after Garrett Jones and Alvarez went back-to-back the day before in Philadelphia. The Pirates added two more when Jones went deep to right field to score McCutchen who singled before him. What an inning.
The Pirates added on a few more runs later in the game as Brad Lincoln pretty much came in and did whatever he wanted to the Cardinals hitters.
Corriea ended up only going five innings and to be quite honest I am pretty shocked he got that far. You will see me talk about stats that are meaningless in baseball like the RBI and pitchers wins and this is a prime example while. Correia gets credit for the win but he really didn't pitch well at all. He gave up five runs on six hits and threw 90 pitches and forced the Pirates hand to get to the pen when it was a 100+ degree day on the field. The Pirates were actually lucky it wasn't worse. After Pedro tied up the game Correia gave up a leadoff base runner and the runner on third with two outs with Craig coming up to bat. Craig had already doubled and homered in the game so it would have been more than alright to work around him but not only did Correia get behind him 2-0 but served up a pitch right now the middle on a 2-1 count that Craig nearly took out of the ballpark to right centerfield. You can't be doing that and even know he got out of the inning you can't serve up home run pitches to the hottest hitter in the lineup.
As bad as Correia pitched today Lincoln was just the opposite. He threw three innings tonight out of the pen and was truly dominant. He allowed one hit in the three innings of work and struck out four batters without walking one. He may not be a viable starting pitching prospect but he is going to earn his money out of the pen where he has been sensational this season.
What more can you say about the offense? They had 18 hits tonight, the most since July of 2010 and it didn't matter who was up, they were going to have a great chance of getting a hit. Six different hitters recorded more than one hit and only Rod Barajas didn't record a hit in the victory. What a performance.
What is refreshing to see this year is that the Pirates are able to put the ball out of the ballpark. Last season the Pirates only had 107 home runs and since PNC Park opened in 2001 the most home runs in a season they had is 163 in the 2003 season. This season they have 76 home runs already through 76 games which puts them on pace to nearly equal the 2003 mark. Pretty impressive stuff for a team that has been pretty inept in recent past.
So, it will be pretty cool when McCutchen doesn't start the All-Star game, right? How do you respond to going 0-for-5? By going 4-for-5 with a home run, double, three runs scored and three RBI. What an outstanding player and he just keeps getting better. It really doesn't matter who is on the bump, McCutchen is going to find a pitch he likes and hammer it. He is now up to .344/.399/.594 and there truly aren't too many better hitters in the majors right now.
All in all not a bad night. It started with the Pirates trailing 5-2 half way through the game and it ends with the Pirates having 19 hits and scoring 14 runs. With the nine run victory that pushes the Pirates run differential to the positive side for the first time since the first week of the season.
Coming in I thought getting one of the three wins would be alright but getting two would be ideal. Winning this first game of the series really sets them up nice to win the series and get some momentum going into a series at PNC Park with the Astros.