It has been a really long time since the Pirates had a game where you and I could sit back and laugh and have some fun and enjoy it. Tonight was one of those games and man did it make me feel amazingly good. The Pirates pitched well, they hit well and they played good defense. I talked the other night about the Pirates having a complete game but they barely won that one. This time they routed the team they were playing, that team being the St. Louis Cardinals.
The offense banged out 14 hits and scored nine runs which came in all kinds of situations. Jake Westbrook started for the Cardinals and didn't have any of the hitters fooled and man was it fun to watch. The Pirates got a lone run in the first inning and then added on with a pair of runs in the third, four runs in the fifth and single runs in the sixth and seventh innings. Man, what a night.
The night was about two players, really, and it came down to a great offensive performance from Pedro Alvarez and an outstanding pitching performance by James McDonald. First lets talk about Alvarez.
Much has been made about Alvarez this season. There were always high expectations for Alvarez since he was brought up and while he has had some major struggles it always seems like he leaves people expecting more no matter what he does. Not tonight. Tonight was one of those games where Alvarez was absolutely locked in and turned that into a 4-for-5 night with two massive home runs and a double. He has 11 total bases and raised his line to .247/.327/.484 with 25 home runs. In the third inning he took a pitch in the low insise portion of the strike zone and launched a 422 foot home run to the North Side Notch. For a left handed hitter to do that you need to have a lot into that and this was a jaw dropping home run. Seriously, watch that home run then watch it five more times. Unreal.
That would have been good enough going with the double and single he had but he did something even more impressive in the sixth inning when he launched a ball over the seats in right centerfield that went 469 feet which is the longest home run ever for a Pirates player at PNC Park. Do yourself a favor and go watch that again and again and again and again. A lot of people give Pedro a tough time and he has had a very up and down season buy overall I will take a .250 hitter with 25+ bombs. With how bad he was last year and how badly he struggled this year this is a pretty good season. When he is on his bat can carry the team and when the team needed him the most he stepped up and drive in four runs. If he stays hot for a few weeks this is going to get really, really, interesting.
The other guy in the game tonight was McDonald. He is going to be wildly overlooked because of the night that Pedro had but all McDonald did was shut down a potent Cardinals lineup with seven shutout innings and only giving up two hits and walking one, striking out six. Man, what a big time performance from McDonald who is starting to look like he is stepping away from the bad starts of the post All_Star Game slump. He was confident and throwing all his pitches for strikes and while the Cardinals lineup can put runs on the board in bunches McDonald pretty much laughed at that and shut the door. A huge performance after A.J. Burnett didn't get the job done last night. If McDonald is going to throw games like this then the Pirates are going to be that much better. It is kind of the same line as Alvarez but if these two guys start performing, watch out.
I guess I can't go through this recap without talking about the collision that happened at home plate between Josh Harrison and Yadier Molina. With Harrison on second Jose Tabata singled to right field and the resulting play at the plate was pretty scary. Watch for yourself:
First off I just want to say that I don't think anyone really wants to see any player get hurt. It was pretty nasty and it didn't look like Molina took it really well and just not a good thing. I know Harrison had to do what he felt like he had to do to score but this is really a no win situation for Molina. I think it was pretty funny that a lot of people were saying that Harrison made a "hard nosed baseball play" when in reality Harrison had a 90 feet head start when Molina had no idea where he was and got crushed literally as he caught the ball. No idea how that is a "hard nosed baseball play" but I guess you can think what you want. When we talk about guys getting hit in the head it is pretty much a no tolerance thing in an uber physical sport such as football so why should it be OK in baseball where, the last time I checked, concussions can happen. I don't know, I don't really feel great on this one way or the other but I am going to say that it probably wasn't ideal.
I understand that things like this happen in baseball, especially when you are a catcher trying to protect the plate but I guess this is really a tough spot because catchers, in that situation, are pretty much set up to get injured. I hope Molina is OK.
I found it interesting that the Cardinals responded by hitting Harrison not in his next plate appearances but in the second plate appearance after the incident. Look, by everything it was a "clean" play. I know a ton of people were all up in arms because the Pirates didn't hit a Reds player after Chapmen hit Andrew McCutchen but I am not really sure what hitting Harrison accomplished besides putting another runner on base. Did it magically make Molina better? Did it scare the Pirates? Did it say that the next time you run a catcher in a supposed "clean" way you will get hit? I guess you can say that Westbrook was sticking up for his teammate but if he was doing that why wasn't Harrison hit in the very next plate appearance? I guess there is this misconception that teams that hit players that do something borderline changes how games in the future are played but I highly doubt they do. It is foolish, plain and simple.
This was really a great game and I could go on for probably another thousand words but just let this one soak in and then lets hope this can propel the Pirates to go streakin.