It is either a really good or really bad thing when I can start typing up my recap with any sort of purpose at the start of the seventh inning. When games with the Cardinals come up you don't really expect to start to type this early in the game but the Pirates have been somewhat dominate against the Cardinals this season. The Pirates dominated the Cardinals tonight and already won the season series from them despite having four more games to play against each other. This Pirates team is fun to watch and more-so they are a pretty damn good baseball team. They now lead the NL Central by one game. They can't come out of the series with the Cardinals trailing in the division. This is fun.
The Pirates offense has been really good in the second half of the season (after the All-Star break) and tonight they continued that trend. Coming into tonight the Pirates position player have hit .266/.338/.430 while scoring four runs a game. Tonight they racked up 13 hits and the only starting position player without a hit on the night was Andrew McCutchen. Think about that for a second, a guy that is most likely going to win NL MVP honors goes 0-for-5 with three strikeouts and seven men left on base doesn't contribute at all and the Pirates still take the team they are tied with atop the NL Central behind the woodshed. That is awesome.
Anyways, Lance Lynn was on the bump and just got shelled. He was only able to muster four innings while giving up seven runs (all earned) on 10 hits. Anyone (besides McCutchen) was having their way with Lynn and Lynn was visibly frustrated on the mound. The Pirates got to the Cardinals pen early for consecutive games and you can't ask for much more than that.
We can talk about the offense, and we should, but you also have to mention A.J. Burnett. While he got a ton of run support early he also pitched a damn good game. He went seven innings (could have been eight as his pitch count was only at 92) while giving up four hits and a walk while striking out six. He didn't have his dominant stuff but he was more than good enough to shut down a pretty good Cardinals offense (despite what they have done against the Pirates this year) and get the win. Burnett can be hit or miss with what he is going to give you but when he can focus up and have his control he is as good as anyone on the staff. He didn't quite have the great stuff tonight but the offense scored a lot of runs so who cares.
Back to the offense. A.J. Burnett actually got it started. Yea, you read that right. He singled home the first run in the second inning and that was basically when you knew it was going to be all good.
The game was actually in the balance early. The Cardinals scored the first run on the Pirates in what seems like forever but it was 2-1 heading into the bottom of the third inning before the Pirates scored five runs and essentially ended the game. Russell Martin highlighted the inning with a monster three run blast to right field. He knew it was gone as soon as it left the bat as he gave an unreal bat flip and slowly made his way to first base. The best part about all of this? ROOT showed a replay of Lynn as the ball left the yard and he screamed the f-bomb as loud as he could. It was a sign of the entire night. It was awesome.
Jose Tabata had another two hit night while Marlon Byrd had two hits and Neil Walker had three.
This is what it is all about. Believe it or not the Pirates are a really damn good baseball team and the thoughts of this being some kind of mirage are far from over. This is a playoff team and they are in the thick of a NL Central race. Winning the division is ridiculously important with how dumb a one game playoff is. The Pirates guaranteed that they will end this series no worse than tied for the lead in the division and could be two games up if they can pick up the sweep. It is a good time to be a Pirates fan. A really good time.
Also there was a lot that went on today. Do yourself (and me) a favor by checking out my breakdown of the Justin Morneau trade [here] and click [here] to read my post about how McCutchen has improved this season.