The Pirates have tied the GABP single-game record for HR by an opponent (6). #whiff
— Reds (@Reds) September 28, 2013
Lets start with Morton. It was evident early on that he really didn't just have it. In the first inning he had runners on first and second but was able to get Todd Frazier to fly out. The Pirates got two runs in the top of the third but then Morton let the Reds get three off him in the bottom of the inning. He struggled for much of the rest of the day and it really was just one of those times where a pitcher doesn't have it. Despite not having it and having the Pirates up by three Clint Hurdle sent Morton back out for the fifth inning to face the top of the order. Morton has already struggled with Shin-Soo Choo, Joey Votto, and Jay Bruce but he was thrown back out there and all Morton did was load the bases before Hurdle came out to get him with one out. I get that Hurdle wants to get Morton the win but this needs to stop.
(Edit: I thought about this a bit after the win and I feel like I should say it. I know I am pretty hard on Hurdle for much of the things he does. As you know I am not a big fan of his in-game management but he, like Huntington, Coonelly, Nutting, are a big reason the Pirates are in the playoffs and a reason the plan has worked out the way is has. That doesn't mean I think he is a great manager but he has gotten better this year over last and he does deserve credit despite how mind numbing some of his moves are on a game-to-game basis.)
While Vin Mazzaro was able to come in and get the final two outs without letting in a run that doesn't make the decision right. One double in the gap ties the game and the last thing I want is for Hurdle to leave in Liriano in too long on Tuesday and the Pirates lose and they are done. Rather it be too early than too late.
What was good about today was pretty much everything else. The Pirates offense went 1-2-3 against Bronson Arroyo in the first inning and then they just went off. They had a pair of runners on with no outs in the second inning and failed to score but they proceeded to score at least one run from the third through sixth innings. They chased Arroyo after only 4.2 innings where they got eight hits, six runs, and five home runs.
The Pirates had 24 home runs as a team in the month of September and they had six today. Not a bad way to clinch a playoff game in Pittsburgh. Neil Walker went big fly two times and now has 16 home runs on the season. He opened up the scoring in the third inning and was followed by an Andrew McCutchen big fly for back-to-back home runs. It was awesome. Walker also went to deep center in the fifth inning to give the Pirates a 4-3 lead. Walker is starting to hit the ball really well and even his outs are hard hit balls. He is a pretty streaky hitter and this would be a GREAT time for him to start getting hot.
Pedro Alvarez went deep again today which tied the game at three in the fourth inning and it was another no-doubter. I did a little piece about Alvarez this morning (you should read it) and he is looking pretty good despite his overall numbers not looking that great. Again, if he is going to get hot this is a really good time to get hot because the playoffs are pretty important.
Has there been a better player over the last couple weeks/month than Byrd? He had three more hits today in four at bats and while he hit a ball that went off the very top of the wall last night he hit a ball today in the exact same spot that went well over the wall for a two run bomb. It boggles my mind how teams like the Reds and Cardinals let Byrd get to the Pirates at the waiver deadline. I mean they had to know the Pirates were going to make a move. Why not claim him and just block the Pirates? Rather than do that all Byrd has done has come in and mash for the Pirates and make the middle of the order a lot scarier now that they can move Alvarez down to the six spot. Don't let anyone tell you that he hasn't made a difference because he's been pretty outstanding since he came over.
Some interesting spots in the game today on the defensive side, well actually the pitching side. While the game was a little out of hand (four runs, but not totally over) the Pirates were able to use Justin Wilson against the top of the lineup. This is big because with the Pirates win you have to imagine that neither team will send out their 'A' lineup tomorrow so getting Wilson/Watson out there to get some work against the same guys they are going to work against on Tuesday. Wilson did walk a pair of hitters but in crunch time he struck out Joey Votto with one out and runners on first and second with a 97 mph fastball. It was pretty awesome to see. Watson worked the next inning and got Jay Bruce to strike out swinging and Pirate killer Todd Frazier to fly out. Big time outs whether it was a one run game or a four run game.
Playoff baseball is coming back to Pittsburgh. #Pirates beat #Reds, 8-3, secure home-field advantage in wild-card game.
— Michael Sanserino (@msanserino) September 28, 2013
PNC Park is going to be home to a playoff game on Tuesday. The Pirates have 93 wins with the chance to have 94 tomorrow. Is this the real world? One thing is for sure, the North Shore is going to be crazy on Tuesday. It's going to be fun.