Sunday, August 19, 2012

Pirates Game Day 121 Recap - Pirates 6, Cardinals 3 (19 innings)

Last season the Pirates played a 19 inning game that resulted in a heartbreaking loss that some might say was the beginning of the end to their season. While I disagree as that being the "starting point" for the Pirates eventual collapse it was a tough pill to swallow as I was up until nearly 2 a.m. watching the game and writing this hardly legible recap. Today could have been a little like that except that it was nothing like that. The story played the same with the game going 19 innings and the Pirates and Cardinals both squandered a combined 26 runners on the day but this time the Pirates would come back and defeat the team they were playing. Top of the 19th, a Pedro Alvarez home run then an Andrew McCutchen two out, bases loaded single to plate two more runs. Everything came full circle and damn it felt good.

I am not even really sure where to start with this. There were so many thing that were bad with this game but then again there were good things that overcame the bad things that happened. The Pirates were playing on a getaway day before going West to play the Padres and they just didn't care. They probably weren't actively thinking about the Meals game last season as it got into the 13th inning but I know I was and so were a lot of other people. The guys on the field were just thinking about winning and they knew they weren't going to leave St. Louis without a win and every single member on that team sacked up and did what they had to do to win.

The bench was short and with injuries to Travis Snider late in the game it forced Josh Harrison to play right field and with Starling Marte down Jose Tabata had to come up from AAA to play left field and even though Michael McKenry went 0-for-8 on the day he wasn't letting a single ball get behind him with the Cardinals winning run on third base and Joel Hanrahan was bouncing pitches. It was a full on team game and ever single member of the 25 man roster contributed. It was great to see and shows how different this team was than what they were last season and a big reason why I didn't think this Pirates team was going to have a 2011 slide.

No reason to go through everything in this game but the Cardinals got a pair of runs and then the Pirates got those runs back. That was all done by the sixth inning. The next run scored in the game was a Garrett Jones infield single that scored James McDonald (!). Honestly, McDonlad was brought in to pinch hit with two outs and singled up the middle and moved to third a few hitters later and Jones got the job done. When I talked about every single player making a difference that is what I am talking about, McDonald, a starting pitcher, singling and scoring the go ahead run.

With the Pirates really hurting in the pen Juan Cruz was the last hope out of the pen but wasn't able to get the save. He gave up a run and was lucky to get out of the inning. Things just kept going and the Pirates were forced to go to Wandy Rodriguez who was supposed to be the starter for tomorrow. Rodriguez pitched a pair of innings and earned his first win as a Pirate. Oh man.

Going into the 19th things were dire. The pen was used up to where the Pirates were using starting pitching and the Cardinals were in nearly the same boat. With one out Alvarez came up to the plate after going 0-for-5 with a pair of strikeouts and was facing a left Barret Browning and hit a ball 416 feet to right centerfield. I jumped up off my couch as the ball was in the air and threw my hands up and screamed. I didn't do that for the Jones hit and I have no idea why but Alvarez deserves this. He is vilified by the fan base and has had a tough start to his major league career and he needed to have that. You gotta love seeing that kid smile.

McCutchen was having an equally bad day with four strikeouts and only one hit in seven at bats. He worked a 3-0 count and then got a pitch he could hit and drove home a pair of runs to put the icing on the cake. He needed that hit. Rodriguez needed those other runs. People want to run Rodriguez out of town already and all he did was pitch two innings and strike out three guys and only give up one hit. Those guys needed to step up, not for the fans, but for themselves.

I know I talked about the offense and the guys getting the job done in crunch time but the real hero's of this game is the bullpen. Jeff Karstens got the start and did an outstanding job of going seven innings and only giving up two runs and two hits but it was the collective work of the bullpen to completely shut down the Cardinals and give the offense a chance to do it's thing. The pen hasn't been good the last couple of weeks but they grab their collective balls in this game and got the job done. It is different as a pen when you are the home team because you know that if you make a mistake then your offense can come clean it up. WHen you are on the road in a game like this and you make a mistake the game is over. No second chance, that is it. That is why this was a great job by this team. Not because they only gave up one run over 12 innings but because they put their shoddy past couple weeks behind them and sacked up. That is what you are supposed to do.

Jason Grilli, Kevin Correia, Chris Resop, Hanrahan, Jared Hughes, Cruz and Rodriguez all combined to go 12 innings and give up one run on nine hits and fanned 11 hitters. Just an outstanding job by all of those guys. Cruz didn't have the greatest outing and I don't think that Clint Hurdle did a good job of using his bullpen but when guys were called on they came in and did the job. Just can't say enough how huge it was to have every single guy in the pen come in and get the job done. Not every team has a pen that can do that.

While it was great to get good performances from those guys and from the team as a whole but it also creates a lot of problems in who is available to pitch and who is going to be able to come off the bench. You can probably assume that Resop and Rodriguez aren't going to pitch tomorrow and I would assume they would be hesitant to use Correia and Hughes so that leaves the pen really thing. Add on to that the team is going to be adding Chad Qualls back and you are going to see a lot of moves tomorrow. Kyle McPherson is the scheduled starter tomorrow for Indianapolis so he could come up or Justin Wilson could come up as he is on five days rest. Travis Snider most likely will see some DL time and with Jordy Mercer going on maternity leave there will need to be some moves for the offensive side of the ball. It is going to be a crazy day for a lot of people. Lots of press releases tomorrow for call up and someone will probably be making their MLB debut. Cool stuff.

It must also be mentioned that the Pirates are now undefeated since the Zoltan Taco came to life. For those of you that don't know the Zoltan Taco is thanks to Josh.

There are a million other words that I could write about this game because I am still super stoked. I might sleep on it some more and add tomorrow but I don't know if I want to do that. It just feels good right now. Real good.

Enjoy this one and then get geeked up for late night baseball in San Diego.

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