This is what the Pirates needed. After AJ Burnett struggled in the first inning and gave the Reds a 1-0 lead, things seemed pretty bad. Two straight losses, an early deficit, a ton of pitches for Burnett in the first ... I said before the game that a sweep wouldn't have been the end of the world and I'll stay by that assessment, but I'll also say that it would've been awfully disappointing. And so when Neil Walker stepped up and crushed a 1-0 pitch into the right field stands to give the Pirates a 2-1 lead, it felt like a huge weight had been lifted off of the Pirates.
Walker's home run was almost everything that Burnett needed. After giving up a walk and two hits in the first, he only gave the Reds Drew Stubbs' homer between the second and eighth innings. No more walks, no other hits. Still, Stubbs homered evened things up and after last night, tied isn't quite where I wanted to see the Pirates. It didn't stay tied long; Starling Marte ripped a two-out, two-run triple to right field and that put the Pirates ahead for good. Burnett set down 18 in a row and Andrew McCutchen added a homer in the top of the ninth and the Pirates put a sixth run up for good measure and the Pirates get out of Cincinnati with a win.
It wasn't really "just" a win, though; the Pirates didn't play badly at all in this series. They certainly played well enough that they could've taken two out of three without much different happening this weekend. Still, it would've been hard to point to anything as a moral victory in the wake of a sweep. As it stands, the Pirates are further behind the Reds than they were this weekend, but at least they have another huge start from Burnett and a huge game from Walker and a home run from Andrew McCutchen as a feather to stick in their hats on their way home for an 11-game homestand.
There are six Pirates/Reds games on the schedule in September. It's up to the Pirates now to play well enough to make those games mean as much and more than the games this weekend did.
Props to Marte for hitting in what proved to be the winning runs. It was especially clutch since he had just been whored with a strike call that was way inside.
To reference the opening words of a tome that is both bane to and raison d'etre of a certain Mr. Ford Prefect..."DON'T PANIC!"
Entering today's game, the Reds had won 18 of 21 games since the All-Star break. Burnett has proven to be a reliable stopper and a true leader, neither of which I anticipated when he came over from New York. Good to see McCutchen launch one, his first RBI since July 22, the same date Alvarez had his last RBI. Interesting that Hurdle sat left-banded batters Pedro Alvarez and Travis Snider against RHP Homer Bailey. Both had lousy at-bats Saturday night. Might we see more of Gaby Sanchez at first base and Garrett Jones in right? For what it's worth (nothing, really), the Reds are now 45-4 when Drew Stubbs scores.
All told we lost one game in the standings over the weekend and have split the season series with the Reds (6-6). The Reds are the hottest they have been since pre-1900....odds that continues? We just need to keep winning series....especially at home. I'll take a 7-4 homestand please!
@wkkortas Yea, I was rummaging around looking for my panic button. Luckily it appears I won't need it.