This game was a lot closer than the score in the headline will indicate. The Pirates and Brewers were actually tied for much of the game before the Pirates scored three runs in the seventh inning and six runs in the eighth inning to really put this game way out of reach.
Edison Volquez was masterful, yet again, and the Pirates did just enough to get Yovani Gallardo out of the game after only six innings while he threw 114 pitches. Gallardo actually didn't pitch all that bad as he only gave up two run on three hits but the Pirates did a nice job by taking four walks and really making him work despite not really doing a ton on offense. Once the Pirates got to the Brewers bullpen things fell apart pretty fast for them.
Volquez is the best starting pitcher through the first three weeks of the season. I will let you reread that sentence if you need to and let it sink it. That is the reality of the situation. That isn't even saying things are bad, Charlie Morton has done a pretty decent job and while Gerrit Cole has been up and down he has been mostly good but what Volquez has been that good. The big knock on him coming into the season was that he didn't throw enough strikes. Tonight he threw 77 pitches and 53 of those went for strikes. That is...really good. He actually could have went deeper into the game but with the score 2-2 and a runner on first I guess Clint Hurdle thought pinch hitting Josh Harrison and having him try to bunt was a better idea (more on this later). Volquez only walked one and gave up eight hits which is a little less than ideal but he just got the job done and that is awesome from a guy I thought was going to be fairly awful before the season.
The Pirates offense struggled a bit against Gallardo but he's pretty good. As much fun as it would be to bash the Pirates offense early they really did a nice job of forcing the Brewers hand and getting into their bullpen early. The Pirates mashed that pen. Before they did that they actually got to Gallardo for a pair of runs that came in the bottom of the first when Andrew McCutchen went deep to centerfield on a middle-middle fastball. It was his first of the season and it was beautiful.
Anyways, the Brewers went with Rob Wooten and the Pirates were all over him. He recorded only one out and gave up three runs on three hits and also walked a guy. The key hit was a pinch hit two run bomb from Harrison that was probably done by mistake. Let me explain...
In the top of the seventh inning the Brewers had a man on first base with nobody out and they pinch hit for Gallardo. OK, nothing wrong with that, something they were going to have to do with him already having 114 pitches and the game being tied. Problem is they sent up a position player to pinch hit, and asked him to bunt. He (Logan Schafer) actually struck out trying to bunt. I actually said to myself before this happened "wow, this is a great way to not score runs" and they didn't score a run.
So the very next inning Jordy Mercer led off with single and Hurdle went with Harrison. I immediately knew what was going to happen. Pinch bunter. Not only is this an awful idea form a tactical standpoint but Harrison is a pretty horrid bunter. If you are going to pinch hit to bunt why do you not use someone like Morton or Cole to do so? Why burn a position player to essentially give himself up? To the shock of nobody Harrison couldn't get a bunt down in two attempts. Shockingly (to me) he was able to swing with two strikes and he hit a home run. I know it might seem like it is impossible for pinch hitters to, you know, hit, but it did happen. A rally killing home run without the aid of a bunt gave the Pirates the lead for good. Clint, stop doing stupid shit like this.
Anyways, the Pirates got another run in the inning and then the Brewers brought in former Pirates prospect Wei-Chung Wang, who the Brewers took from the Pirates in the Rule 5 draft, and he got rocked. In the ninth he gave up six runs on six hits and gave up home runs to Gaby Sanchez and Pedro Alvarez. The Brewers are trying to keep Wang on the rester the entire year to keep him and not have to return him to the Pirates but I can't imagine they will be able to do this much longer.
What was nice about the offense tonight was that they collected 12 hits and 11 runs but also walked six times while striking out only seven times. Almost universally when you have the same number of walks as you do strikeouts you are going to be doing something right. The Pirates did that today. I know you will say that they got a lot of this off a Rule 5 guy but they were having some good plate appearances against Gallardo and he's been really good this year.
The top four hitters in the Pirates lineup had seven hits. That will do. Travis Snider and Neil Walker were the only position players that played that didn't have a hit.
The Pirates won. That is fun. Yay winning.