Probably the biggest thing that both teams needed in the first game of a doubleheader in the middle of a rare five game series is that the starting pitchers needed to go deep in the game and give the bullpen a rest as the game two starters are call-ups. Both A.J. Burnett and Lance Lynn did that and while the game went to extras and forced both teams to use more arms than they probably wanted to it was the Pirates who were able to get that one break and that break turned into a win in the 11th inning.
I admit that I have not always been the biggest fan of A.J. Burnett but he was outstanding tonight. He wasn't quite as great at Francisco Liriano was last night (in my opinion) but this was a great start. I only say I haven't been a fan since I have always had a problem with Burnett not going deep into games and again today he was up around 60 pitches through three innings and it looked like he was going to be lucky to get through five innings. Burnett is a really good pitcher and has been great for the Pirates since he came over a year ago but sometimes I feel like he relies a little too much on the strikeout and has never been consistent in getting deep in games. Today he did and it was much needed. Maybe nothing was better than the sixth inning to illustrate what he is all about. Jon Jay led the inning off and struck out and while he swung and missed the ball hit him in the leg and went near the dugout. Home plate umpire Eric Cooper said it didn't hit Jay and it was just a passed ball. No other umpire saw it and while Russell Martin was arguing with Cooper Jay went to second base.
Now this was really on Martin as he has to go get that ball and worry about arguing later but the fact still remained this it was a brutal call that put Jay on second base with no outs. To further trouble Burnett's next pitch was pretty close to on the black on the outside corner and he didn't get the call. Burnett threw his arms in the air a bit (which he shouldn't have done) but Cooper took exception and nearly charged the mound as he was yelling at Burnett. Martin had to almost hold him back and while this was going on third base umpire Jeff Kellogg tried to come and talk to Burnett but he waved him off and was visibly pissed (as I would have been). I was a bit worried that Burnett might unravel with the emotions but all he did was get out of the inning without Jay even reaching third base. Just a huge momentum switch and really, really fun to watch.
Burnett finished the game going seven innings and throwing 113 pitches and striking out nine while walking three and giving up only three hits. The Pirates got another strong start and while the offense wasn't doing much against Lynn Burnett gave the team a chance. The Pirates picked him up in the 11th and while he didn't earn the win he probably should have.
The bullpen really wasn't great but they were able to do just enough. Mark Melancon was his usual stud self and Justin Wilson was good in pumping in consistent 99 mph fastballs to Cardinals hitters but Bryan Morris and Vin Mazzaro really struggled and thanks to some good defense they were able to escape.
I am not really that big of an Alex Presley fan but he has played pretty well all over the outfield for the Pirates. Yesterday he was able to contribute with a RBI hit late and today he was facing a lefty and hit a ball right back up the middle, off his glove and into left field to score Martin and walk it off for the Pirates. He has some decent speed and can play decent defense so with the lack of consistency from Travis Snider and Jose Tabata you can't really have a problem with running him out there.
Thanks in large part to Burnett the Cardinals were held to only 1-of-10 hitting with runners in scoring position. They also stranded three runners on third base from the third inning on. For a team that has been lauded for their great performance with runners on second and/or third (rightfully so) they have been held in check so far this series.
Really good win for the Pirates. Before the series I thought if the Pirates could get two wins they would be more than alright going forward, but after taking the first two games it has you also feeling anything less than a series win would be a pretty big disappointment.
Onto game two!