I don't think there's really a whole lot to say about this game. AJ Burnett hit the wall really early and blew a 4-0 lead, then Clint Hurdle did some silly things. The Pirates' bullpen pitched really well and kept them in the game, but the offense had trouble with the Cardinals' bullpen again, and so the Pirates lost.
I'm not actually hugely concerned with Burnett long-term, but I do want to point out that maybe it's not smart to give Burnett a longer leash than guys like Jeff Locke and Gerrit Cole have. Burnett is not the youngest guy in the world anymore, and it seems to me that when he strings together a few high-pitch outings, the result is that he makes a couple of starts that look like his last two. Obviously if this keeps happening it'll be a concern, but I'm willing to bet that he recalibrates himself some after these two short outings and he'll probably look better the next couple of times he takes the mound.
As I said during the game, watching Burnett fall apart with a big lead in the fifth inning was frustrating, but watching Starling Marte bunt with a runner on second and no outs in the seventh inning drove me absolutely mad. Josh Harrison started the seventh with a leadoff double, which should've brought Marte, Walker, and McCutchen up with a chance to drive him in. Marte bunted Harrison to third, then Nick Leyva sent Harrison on contact when Walker hit a ground ball to the right side of the infield. Harrison was thrown out at home, and Walker slid up to second. Andrew McCutchen was intentionally walked, and a LOOGY was brought in to face Pedro Alvarez, which ended predictably. Basically, the Pirates got a leadoff double from the nine spot in their lineup and when Clint Hurdle elected to bunt with Marte, the end result was that he took the bat out of three of the first four hitters in his lineup and only really gave Walker a chance to bring the run home. I can't handle stuff like that.
The problem runs a little bit deeper than the bunt, though; there is no way that Andrew McCutchen can ever see a pitch to hit with someone on base late in the game and Pedro Alvarez on deck, so long as the opposing team has a left-handed reliever available. Clint Hurdle goes matchup crazy with Garrett Jones and Gaby Sanchez, and he used both Sanchez and Jose Tabata to pinch hit in the sixth inning today against lefty Sam Freeman, but Alvarez is always left up at the plate to wilt with lefties on the mound and runners on base. There is no good solution to this problem (the Pirates could, I suppose, bat Jones in front of Alvarez, which would then ensure that when Gaby Sanchez pinch hits for Jones with a lefty on the mound that either Sanchez faces a lefty, Alvarez faces a righty, or the opposing team runs through a whole bunch of their bullpen all at once, but moving Garrett Jones up in the lineup is not the sort of decision that smart baseball teams make), but it's really frustrating watching McCutchen and Alvarez constantly be neutralized by intentional walks and LOOGYs late in close games.
There were plenty of other things that happened in this game (Andrew Lambo got his first career hit, with an RBI double that short-hopped the fence, for one), but this series has exhausted me.
Best solution: Bat McCutchen second, the switch-hitting Walker
third, Alvarez fourth. It prevents the opponent from being able to bring
in a *OOGY after IBB'ing McCutchen, and it also de-incentivizes
pitchers from pitching around Marte with a runner on.
Yes, the bunt was not necessary - however, I must say Marte looked awful in his at bats late in this game other than the bunt. Walker sure looks confident from the leftside. Cutch played poorly today. I think 9 times out of 10 he'll catch that 5th inning sinking ball in left-center gap. I wonder if he's said anything about that after the game? His hitting approach today was feeble as well. Burnett seemed like he couldn't change speeds in that horrible 5th inning. He'd get 2 strikes on a batter and then they'd smack that next fast (but mostly straight) pitch wherever we weren't playing. The home plate ump called a poor game of balls and strikes as far as I was concerned, especially when the Bucs were at bat. Harrison should have put the pedal all the way down and not stopped on a dime a few steps beyond 2nd on his late game double. He would have had 3rd easily given how poorly the ball was handled by the cards on that one.
These 2 teams are very different but also very much the same. Obviously, they are a great match for each other. I can't believe John Jay looked like a .400 hitter this time around. He's either coming into his own or is ready for a big-time slump soon. No way he can keep hitting like he did this week. The Cards haven't hit a HR in how many games?