Last night was a great night for Pirates fans. The Pirates broke the record for consecutive losing seasons and while Neal Huntington doesn't want to celebrate that I think it is a little different for fans. I touched on this a little more last night and to be honest I don't really need to get into any more of that. I think it wouldn't be out of the realm of possibility for the Pirates to have a little letdown tonight even if staff ace Francisco Liriano was on the bump. It wasn't always easy tonight but the Pirates did just enough to get a win.
This was a pretty important game for the Pirates, as they all are at this stage. The Rangers are a team that are in the same spot as the Pirates in terms of division standings and playoff positioning so it wasn't going to be easy going to Texas to win a series. The Reds and Cardinals are playing the Cubs and Brewers and with things as tight as they are in the NLC winning at least two of these games in Texas was going to be pretty important. The Pirates beat one of the best in the game in Yu Darvish last night and tonight Liriano was able to come out and give six strong innings to put the Pirates in a position to sweep the series tomorrow. It's a good place to be in considering the Pirates lost four games coming into this series.
Liriano had a really nice bounce back start after a tough outing against Milwaukee when he only went three innings giving up seven runs but tonight he was able to get through six innings giving up only one run while striking out five and only walking two. His slider was looking really sick and the movement he gets on his pitches when he is on is something that wasn't there in a few starters recently but was there tonight. Sure it would have been nice to see him go seven or eight innings but getting through six with the Pirates having a three run lead isn't all that bad.
The Pirates did tonight what they were unable to do last night against Darvish and that was get a bunch of hits and chance starter Martin Perez after only five innings. The Pirates got four runs and nine hits off Perez and what the offense really did tonight was show what it can do against left handed pitching. Even without Starling Marte in the lineup this is a pretty good offensive team when a southpaw in on the mound.
The game really tipped in the Pirates favor in the fifth inning when they scored three runs that all came with two outs. Andrew McCutchen, Marlon Byrd, and Gaby Sanchez all singled consecutively followed by a wild pitch that scored another run to make it 4-0 Pirates. Despite the Rangers getting some base runners and threatening with the tying run at second base in the eighth inning but Tony Watson was able to shut the door. So, yay.
Things actually got really interesting in the ninth inning. After a McCutchen gave the Pirates an insurance run for a three run lead you would think that is all they would need with Mark Melancon coming in to close the game out. Much like the rest of the bullpen he made things interesting. After getting the first two outs of the inning he gave up four straight hits that put the tying run on third base. Thankfully Mr. Melancon decided that he was done playing around and struck out Andrian Beltre to end the game. Melancon gave up two runs and raised his ERA to 1.12 *gasp*. He's still really good.
Speaking of hitting against left handed pitching the Pirates got an outstanding night out of Jordy Mercer who just mashes them. He went 4-for-5 on the night with a pair of doubles which signified his first ever four hit game. McCutchen had three more hits in five at bats and now has his season line up to .326/.405/.519 as he knocked in three more runs. What can't this guy do? Don't look now but McCutchen is a 7.5 fWAR player and he is getting into territory that the Pirates haven't seen since Barry Bonds was a 9.6 fWAR player back in 1992. Just unreal stuff.
Gaby Sanchez shows why he should take every at bat possible against left handed pitching with a 2-for-4 night and a run batted in.
Along with all of that the Pirates struck out only five times and walked four so it was a good night for the offense.
The Pirates are back into a little groove and got some help as the Cubs beat the Reds tonight for the second straight game and while the Cardinals are beating the Brewers as I type this out it is really nice to see the Pirates bounce back and keep the pressure on those two teams while facing tough competition.