Thursday, August 16, 2012

Pirates Game 118 Recap - Pirates 10, Dodgers 6

Man, how good does that feel? The Pirates finally put together some offense and got a good enough start from A.J. Burnett and finally beat the Dodgers. Granted the Pirates got to face Joe Blanton, who is terrible, but it didn't matter. The offense should have broke out against Blanton and they did. A win feels good. It feels real good.

The Pirates were all over Blanton. Namely Garrett Jones just went nuts and went deep two times with both of his home runs coming as three run shots. The first of the home runs came in the first inning to give the Pirates a 3-0 lead and then the second one came in the fourth inning when the Dodgers came back to force a tied game at four. The second one was an absolute bomb to right centerfield.

Before the year I was really on the fence with Jones and while he can be a little streaky and can look horrid against left handed pitching he really has had an outstanding season. I think most of us would be happy with him hitting around .260 with some power but his current like of .283/.316/.542 is I think over and beyond what Pirates fans could have asked for. What was awesome about all of this was that both home runs came after Blanton walked Andrew McCutchen. If teams are going to start walking him (three times today) then you need someone behind him that is going to make that pitcher pay. For much of the season the Pirates haven't had that guy and recently Jones is making them pay big time and it is so great to have him performing to this level.

It really wasn't all that far away as the Pirates just continued to let the Dodgers hang in the game. After Pedro Alvarez joined the home run party after Jones' second blast to give the Pirates an 8-4 lead. The Dodgers made it interesting in the seventh when they scored a pair of runs on an infield single and a hit by pitch off starter A.J. Burnett. With two outs and the bases loaded and the lead cut to only two Clint Hurdle went to Tony Watson. Yikes. Luckily Watson forced a groundout to Jordy Mercer and all was well.

I know that most of you know how I feel about Hurdle but that scenerio just reinforced how I feel. The first part is probably leaving Burnett in for a couple batters too long but I am willing to look past that a little more. The worst part is in the high leverage situation you are in (bases loaded, up two, two outs in the seventh inning) you bring in Watson. Jason Grilli and Joel Hanrahan are in the pen and Justin Wilson and Bryan Morris still in AAA and you bring in the struggling Watson. Just because Watson got the out doesn't mean it was the right call. Andre Eithier was up and Hurdle brought in Watson to face the lefty. No matter that Watson has reverse splits and pitches to righties better but if that wasn't the case then you bring him in becuase you have said numerous times that you don't like to bring in Grilli in the middle of an inning. So you bring in Tony Watson in the aforementioned situation so you can bring in Grilli, arguably your best bullpen arm, at the start of the next inning with a four run lead. Granted you didn't know you would have a four run lead but the point still stands.

Anyways, as I got off on a ramble that I didn't intend to be that long, the Pirates offense came through. Pedro Alvarez looked really, really, good at the plate today with three hits including an all arms home run to dead center and a double down the right field line. Oh, he also went the other way with a line drive single to left. He hasn't been great all season but if this is the start of one of his streaks then it is coming at the right time.

Clint Barmes. That dude has actually been playing some pretty good baseball lately and in the month of August he is 13-for-42 including a 2-for-4 day today. His average is now up to .221 which is somewhere I didn't think it would ever get to. Getting some, any, offense from Barmes is going to give some substance to the bottom of the lineup that really has been terrible all year. Ride the hot streak.

Burnett really wasn't great but he didn't need to be. All season he has been a stopper so it was nice for the Pirates to buck up and get a win for him in a tough start. Burnett went 6.2 and gave up seven hits and walked a batter while striking out seven. What was pretty unfortunate about his start was that he let six of the nine batters he let reach base score. That is pretty high and he wasn't helped by an early error on Pedro Alvarez but he got through the game. I certainly expect better in his next outing.

Burnett might have had the single best moment of the Pirates season in the sixth inning. To start Hanley Ramirez took Burnett deep in the fourth inning and while he was rounding second base he made a gesture at Burnett and you could tell that he wasn't happy. They got to face off in the sixth inning with two outs and after falling behind 3-0 Burnett came back to strike out Ramirez swinging and as Burnett walked off the mound he started at Ramirez and yelled at him to "sit the f--- down." Some people want to know how you are supposed to respond when someone shows you up, well that is how. It was the perfect response and easily the best moment of the season. Here was Burnett's quote after the game:

Just perfect.

The Pirates stay in the wild card hunt and have a huge series coming up with the Cardinals. Buckle up.

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