The only way to really bounce back from a difficult and maddening loss like the one that the Pirates suffered on Tuesday night/Wednesday morning is to come out in the next game and be the best team on the field. The Pirates did exactly that on Wednesday night against the Cardinals. Home runs from Pedro Alvarez and Garrett Jones gave the Bucs a 2-0 lead in the second inning, Francisco Liriano was in control from the first pitch of the game, Starling Marte threw in a two-RBI single to ease the pain from his Tuesday night error a little bit, and that was way more than Pirates needed to break their four-game losing streak with a 5-1 win over the Cardinals.
This starts and ends with Liriano. When Francisco Liriano signed with the Pirates over the winter, he was a high-strikeout/high-walk pitcher with great stuff that had always had trouble harnessing his ability in a fashion that allowed him to be a complete and efficient starting pitcher for any extended period of time. Coming into 2013, he'd only ever thrown one complete game and that one complete game was a 123-pitch no-hitter that he probably wouldn't have been allowed to finish otherwise. In the Pirates' biggest game of the year on Wednesday, he threw a 94-pitch complete game. He came incredibly close to what the internet has dubbed a "Maddux" -- a complete game shutout on less than 100 pitches. The Cardinals didn't record a run into Carlos Beltran bounced into an out with a runner on third and one out in the ninth.
By comparison, Shelby Miller needed 112 pitches to complete his six innings. Alvarez and Jones both crushed their homers in the second, and the three-run rally in the fourth felt like it was just one hit away from turning into a complete derailment for the Cardinals. The Pirates didn't do much at the plate otherwise, but those five runs were plenty for Liriano.
Solid pitching, some home runs, and a couple (but not too many) timely hits. That's a 2013 Pittsburgh Pirate win. The win puts the Pirates' lead over the Cardinals back to three game, and it keeps their lead over the Reds at 3 1/2 games. With 43 games left, that's a pretty good place to be.
Apropos of very little, I was surprised how good the ESPN crew was last night--I mean, Sciambi is just another talking head, but Mulder and Boone are both surprisingly understated without being dull (Boone is actually very funny in a very dry way), plus they both work way more sober than someone like Rick Sutcliffe.