The Pirates did what they needed to do for a second night in a row in Chicago. The Cubs are not a good team and the Pirates came in and took care of business. The Pirates got a much better performance tonight than they had last night, offensively at least, so it wasn't as tense but all wins count the same and they got the job done. Gerrit Cole was good both on the bump and at the plate and that is really all the Pirates needed tonight. 91 wins with four games to go. Pretty awesome.
Cole did a pretty nice job overall. He lost himself in the sixth inning but was able to wiggle out of a huge jam and kept the game at a comfortable distance. In six complete innings he gave up seven hits and a walk and was really good for the first five innings. All told he struck out six and you can really tell that he has been given more leeway with his secondary pitches, especially his curveball, and that has been what he has needed to rack up those strikeouts to the degree in which most expected out of the gate. Holding onto a five run lead to start the seventh Cole allowed the first three runners to reach and then gave up a run on an error by shortstop Jordy Mercer. During that point of the game there was some serious consideration to go to the pen but Cole really gutted up and got it done. He struck out Dioner Navarro on a 3-2 pitch and then got Luis Valbuena to strikeout looking on an inside fastball before getting Donnie Murphy to fly out to right field on a ball that probably leaves the part on most days. Good thing today wasn't most days. Overall Cole was good again and has been one of the best starters down the stretch run. He should get one more start in the season finale at Cincinnati and hopefully more starts as the playoffs go on.
The Pirates offense faced a left handed pitcher tonight in Chris Rusin and they did exactly what you expected them to do against a left handed pitcher. They hit him all over the yard. Rusin lasted only 2.1 innings where he gave up four runs on six hits while walking one and striking out only one. The Pirates have a really good offensive lineup when they face lefties and they proved it again. Despite the error later in the game Mercer went deep for the fourth run and an unlikely guy, Pedro Alvarez, doubled to right field an inning prior for the Pirates first run. Another unlikely character, Cole, actually followed up things with two outs in the second inning driving in a pair of runs. Who would have thought?
All told the Pirates had 12 hits on the night. Starlings Marte, Andrew McCutchen, Marlon Byrd, and Alvarez all had two hits with Alvarez picking up a pair of doubles and three RBI while Marte and McCutchen also had a run batted in. After struggling last night to put some runs on the board it was nice to see the Pirates break out a little bit even if it was against a lefty and mostly the pen. Whatever, it all counts the same to me.
The Cardinals won tonight and the Reds lost. That means the Pirates are still two games back of the division and are now one game up in the Wild Card. I know Pat Lackey mentioned this on Twitter tonight but I will just reiterate it here, this win doesn't really mean a whole ton unless the Pirates win tomorrow and the Reds lose. If the Pirates and Reds both win tomorrow then the Pirates would still have to win the series in Cincinnati to have the Wild Card game be played at PNC Park. The first tiebreaker for where the Wild Card game is to be played if two teams are tied is head-to-head record an going into the series these two teams are tied 7-7. So if the Pirates are one game up and they lose the series then they will play that game in Cincinnati. The only way they wouldn't need to win the series is if they are two games up which would mean that they only need to win one of the games to host the Wild Card. I hope that made sense. Hopefully the Cardinals lose a couple games and the Pirates can win a few more games and they won't have to worry about the Wild Card. I am assuming that is not going to happen so...