After how bad last night was the Pirates, and we as fans, really needed something good to happen. Well tonight something good happened. A.J. Burnett went out and recorded his 200th strikeout of the season en route to a 12 strikeout night and after a slow start shut down the Reds and the offense did just enough for the Pirates to get back in the win column and back into the top Wild Card spot. Great stuff.
Burnett didn't start the game off very well. After an inning and a half it was 2-0 Reds and Burnett looked like he was a little too amped up for the game. He wasn't hitting spots and he threw a lot of pitches and it just gave you a bad feeling in your stomach. Then something just clicked. He calmed down and just went into beast mode the rest of the game and was striking out Reds hitters left and right and hitters were just looking dumb against his curve. It was really awesome. The Pirates needed a great start tonight and while Burnett hasn't been overly consistent over his career he was pretty great tonight. As I said above he got his 200th strikeout of the season and here is some good info on that:
The Pirates offense got only five hits on the night but when they did get hits they made them count. While the Pirates got behind 2-0 it was about making the Reds pay for mistakes. With two outs (after a double play) Pedro Alvarez reached on an error by Joey Votto and the very next pitch Russell Marin went deep to left field to tie the game.
In the sixth inning the game was still tied and Andrew McCutchen was on first. Homer Bailey tried to pick him off and threw it away and McCutchen got to third. After a Justin Morneau walk Marlon Byrd made the Reds pay for a mistake with a sacrifice fly to right field. The little talked about play there was that it was deep enough for Morneau to tag and move to second base and that was huge. What was that huge? The next batter, Alvarez, singled to left and score Morneau for an insurance run. So one hit and two runs. They made the Reds pay for their mistakes and that is what you have to do in September baseball.
Justin Wilson came in to pitch for the first time in a week and was outstanding. His velocity has been down in his last handful of outings but after some time off he was back up to 98 tonight and got Votto to ground into a double play to end the eighth. Just great to see Wilson back because he is going to need to be in top shape coming down the stretch. Jason Grilli was back in the closers role after not closing a game since his injury and while he still doesn't have his velo back he was able to get a double play ball and another groundout to close the game out. Just great stuff.
The Pirates magic number is three and the Pirates are in a good place right now. This is what September baseball is all about and while last night was the bad part about it tonight was the good part about it. I like the good parts better.