Last night was an offensive explosion that gave the Pirates a fairly easy win but today it was a great mixture of clutch offense and great pitching to take the second straight game from the Cardinals 7-6. Just an absolutely great win that sets up a chance for a sweep that would pump some energy into Pirates fans as they come back to PNC Park for a series against the Astros.
You can pretty much sum up the offense of today's game by the top of the first inning. The Pirates got two quick outs with Alex Presley and Jose Tabata and then things really opened up. Andrew McCutchen got a broken bat single to right field followed by a single through the left side by Garrett Jones to set the table with runners on the corners. Neil Walker earned a walk on the next at bats to bring up Pedro Alvarez with the bases loaded. Pedro worked the count to 3-2 and then absolutely demolished a Lance Lynn fastball that was right down the gut for a quick four runs. I typically watch games in my apartment by myself and as soon as the ball hit the bat I yelled out "Oh my God." That is how hard that Pedro hit this ball and it felt so good to see it go out of the park.
That was a great thing to see and it wasn't just because the Pirates got four runs off one swing of the bat, it was more about how they got those runners on base more than getting them all in. With two outs it looked dead but McCutchen and Jones got on base and anything can happen when you get guys in scoring position. Walker worked the count and got on base to load them up and then Alvarez took the pitches as they were and forced Lynn to put one down the middle rather than potentially walking in a run. A month ago and Pedro swings through that but this time he got every bit of the pitch.
Jeff Karstens had a pretty forgettable outing his first time back but he was the 2011 version today with only one inning where he didn't have things going his way. Today he went seven innings and gave up only four hits and a pair of runs. Both of those runs came in the third inning when he gave up a couple of hits and a walk when he started out facing the bottom of the order. While he is not known as a strikeout pitcher but got seven punch outs, with some pretty key ones, for an offense that is one of the best in all of baseball.
The Pirates offense really responded after the Cardinals made it a two run game. Jose Tabata belted a leadoff double and then Jones earned a one out walk which set up a well placed Walker double to score Tabata. Clint Barmes grounded into a fielders choice to score Jones and get those two runs back.
If that wasn't enough the Pirates added another run in the top of the ninth inning to match a run that the Cardinals scored in the bottom of the eighth inning. Really good to see the Pirates able to match runs when they have a lead and not leave anything up to chance in late innings. Refreshing to see.
Outside of the win the big news is the possible injury that McCutchen suffered in making a pretty spectacular diving catch. He dove head first and his left hand got snagged in the grass and it is now being categorized as a sprained wrist and he is day-to-day. He did stay in the game for a few more innings and even bat but on a check swing he looked like he was in some discomfort and was taken out later. He looked like he was pretty lucky on the diving catch as his wrist didn't stick in the grass and actually gave which might have saved him a broken wrist. If he did have a broken wrist it would obviously be a huge loss for the Pirates and would dash a lot of hopes for almost all Pirates fans. He is the nucleus of the team and having him miss any amount of time would be really bad.
All-in-all it was a great day for the Pirates. Coming into the series I was hoping for two wins and they did that in the first two games of the series. I don't agree with Bob Walk a lot but he brought it up during the broadcast that a sweep gets the Pirates three games in the standings on the Cardinals but winning two only gets them one game better than the Cardinals. That is a two game swing and if the Pirates can get the sweep that will set them up pretty nicely when they go back to PNC to play the Astros next week.