For so many years the Pirates would drop a couple of game and then go into a free fall that they weren't able to get out of. Last year it happened in a big way with a ten game losing streak and one of the main reasons they weren't able to so was because they didn't have someone that could come out and stop the losing streak. This year the Pirates have that guy and his name is A.J. Burnett. Burnett was the Pirates stopper today and boy was he good.
Burnett came just one out shy of tossing his second straight complete game and stifled the Reds offense all day long. He did give up a pair of runs but after he gave up the second run which was a solo shot to Drew Stubbs in the third inning and then retired the next 18 straight hitters. 18 hitters came to the plate and not a single one of them reached base until Burnett issued back-to-back walks with two outs in the ninth inning. Just another unreal pitching performance by A.J. and this is pretty much what you expect from him every single start. This is why he was moved up in the rotation and he is why the Pirates are only 4.5 back of the division instead of 6.5 back. He only gave up three hits, all day, and struck out seven. The first inning was a little long but he had the Reds hitters in his back pocket all day.
While Burnett was really, really, good the Pirates offense showed up in a pretty big way. While they struck out 11 times they were able to pick up 15 hits with six players recording at least two hits. Yea.
Neil Walker went deep to give the Pirates the first lead of the series in the second inning but it wasn't until a two out, two strike, triple by Starling Marte that scored a pair of runs to give the Pirates the lead for good. Andrew McCutchen snapped out of a lengthy home run streak with a bomb in the eighth inning and then Rod Barajas drove in another run with a groundout that should have been a double play but turned into an error.
Clint Barmes had a pair of hits today to raise his average up to .210 but I think we are getting to the point where Jordy Mercer needs to be getting some more playing time. Barmes has been outstanding defensively but his offensive ability is literally nothing. Barmes can still help this team and play a few times a week but it is time for Clint Hurdle to get off of "this is my guy" kick and put him on the bench. It is becoming too much of a liability and his defense can't make up for.
In the same respect I think it is time for Michael McKenry gets some more playing time. I think this is much of the same as the Barmes situation as Barajas gives you better defense but his horrid play offensively is nearly an automatic out for the defense. He is only hitting .202 and his OPS is south of .600 by a significant margin. On the other hand McKenry is playing some great baseball right now and he needs to be in there. With the way Burnett is pitching I don't mind him catching Burnett but I think McKenry needs to be behind the dish three of the five turns in the rotation. I still don't think he should be playing six days a week because I think McKenry can get exposed but he has to play more.
Garrett Jones has quietly been having a really good season. After a pair of hits today he has hit line up to .273/.299/.512. Sure the OBP isn't very good and he swings at some really bad pitches but he is bouncing back very nicely this year.
Really nice to have the Pirates pull of a win. Coming out of a series 1-2 and coming out 0-3 is pretty different and right now the Pirates are only one game worse than when they went in. The Pirates didn't play particularly well and only lost a game. I will take that.