Oh baby. Four straight wins in a five game series with a chance to sweep tomorrow. A chance to sweep a five game series. On a night where Jeff Locke had one of his more forgettable starts the Pirates bullpen and offense picked him up and when the Pirates tied the score at four you kinda had a feeling that despite the bad game they had played until this point there was a pretty good chance the Pirates were gonna win. They did thanks to Tony Watson, Vin Mazzaro, Neil Walker, Russell Martin, and everyone else on that team. Just awesome.
Locke wasn't really that good tonight. He was smacked around by the Cardinals to the tune of ten hits and four runs over only four innings of work. He did strike out six but he was dinked and dunked to death and this might be a little bit of the regression that was supposed to be coming a long time ago. All things told he is pretty lucky that he wasn't torched for some more runs and actually can be commended for not giving up seven or eight runs in his four innings of work.
Watson and Mazzaro were really the unheralded story of the night. They each went two innings of work and combined to strike out four Cardinals, give up only three hits and didn't surrender a run. Both of those guys can be a little up and down at times but it was massively big for them to give four shutout innings to give the offense the time to get those last few runs.
Speaking of the offense, much of this year we have spent giving the offense a really hard time, and with good reason. They haven't been that great and for a lot of the games the pitching has really held serve and picked up the hitting. In my opinion the hitting picked up the pitching (namely Locke) tonight. The Cardinals got two in the first but the Pirates were able to score a run in their half of the first. The Cardinals got a run each in the third and fourth inning but each time the Pirates came back and matched the run they gave up the inning before. In the fifth inning they tied the game and then in the eighth inning with two outs and a runner on second Martin singled up the middle to score Walker and that was all she wrote. Typically when you hear about an offense picking up the pitching staff you expect a ton of hits and a ton of runs but what the Pirates did tonight was keep things close despite the Cardinals offense waking up a little. The Pirates were going up against the Cardinals ace and it didn't matter.
Walker is probably the MVP of the game. I have been pretty hard on Walker as most of you probably know but tonight he really was the catalyst for the offense. He went deep in the third inning to make the score 3-2 and then in a play that you don't normally see he tagged up from first on a long fly out by Pedro Alvarez to get to second base with two outs. Why was that important? Because Martin was the next batter up and singled him home for the game winning run. Little things like that make a huge difference in close games and the little things are why the Pirates won.
Clint Barmes continues to swing a pretty good stick. He was 2-for-3 tonight for his second three hit night in his last three starts. Couple that with some really outstanding defense and you can't really complain when you see his name in the eight spot.
The Cardinals had 13 hits on the night but only one of those went for extra bases. The Cardinals left 11 runners on base and went 4-for-14 which is a ton better than they have been doing over their extended losing streak. Despite all of that the Pirates still managed to stick around long enough to get those few big hits and it turned into a win.
Five game series don't happen all that often and while I don't have the information in front of me I would gather to say that a five game series sweep isn't all that common. The Pirates are now 23 games over .500 and 2.5 games ahead of the Cardinals and still have the best record in all of baseball. I have no idea what is going on but this is awesome. Really awesome.