Today the Pirates did something they haven't done in eight previous tries before, they swept another Major League Baseball team when they had the chances to. The Phillies are not a good baseball team and they pretty much showed why today and the Pirates scored early and late as they beat A.J. Burnett and the Phillies.
This game was really a huge buildup because Burnett was coming back to the city to pitch, for another team. He was going against Jeff Locke who was probably his best friend on the team and you best believe that the broadcast talked about that every second they could get. The Pirates actually handled it pretty well as they played a very brief video tribute when Burnett came onto the field for the bottom of the first inning and the ROOT cameras actually caught Burnett standing there and watching it before he warmed up. Burnett was a big part of this teams identity over the last two years and while I don't want him back on the team it was pretty cool to see.
Back to the game. Locke was money, again. He was able to go eight innings while throwing 100 pitches (70 for strikes) and struck out four while giving up only three hits and one walk. It is really amazing the transformation that Locke has gone through this season. Last year he was walking five or six guys and outing and over the second half he really got lit up. Even in AAA this year he wasn't overly good but it's almost like a switch was flipped and he's been one of the best arms in the rotation. His change up has revolutionized his arsenal and his two-seam fastball was getting crazy run today. The Phillies aren't a good offensive team but they are still a MLB team and they looked clueless today.
The offense did enough for the win. After the Phillies got a run in the first inning thanks to a Pedro Alvarez error the Pirates got two back. Burnett came out dealing with strikeouts of Gregory Polanco and Starling Marte but back-to-back singles by Andrew McCutchen and Neil Walker was followed by a double by Russell Martin that gave the Pirates a 2-1 lead.
Walker drove home Josh Harrison in the third and then the Pirates added three runs in the eighth inning to really put the game away.
The Pirates offense only had seven hits on the day but it seemed like a lot more. They did walk four times and went 3-for-9 with runners in scoring position so they did a pretty nice job overall.
Really the game came down to Locke being better than Burnett and it was a big win for the Pirates. They are now 4.5 games out of first place thanks to a Brewers loss and coupled with a Cardinals loss the Pirates are in second place in the NL Central all by themselves. They have seven more games before the All-Star break and those games are against the Cardinals and Reds so we will see what the Pirates have over the next week.