Really, I'm not sure that I can pick my favorite moment from this game. Marlon Byrd's game-sealing three-run homer into centerfield bushes followed by a simultaneous Steve Blass and Twitter explosion of Byrd puns was pretty great, but all it really did was put the finishing touches on a game that had looked like a win for a while. For my money, I'm not sure I've ever seen anything like Andrew McCutchen's standing steal of second in the fourth inning. Because McCutchen got such a giant jump on Tom Gorzelanny and because Gorzelanny threw his pitch in the dirt, 'Cutch was able to ease up and get into second standing ahead of Jonathan Lucroy's throw. What made the steal even more impressive was this game's other standout moment: the 14-pitch Marlon Byrd at-bat that preceded it, that included numerous throws to first by Gorzelanny to try and keep McCutchen in check. Byrd ended up striking out, but the long at-bat tuned the PNC Park crowd into the game and it wore Gorzelanny down. McCutchen scored on a Gaby Sanchez single to give the Pirates a 2-0 lead and it was all downhill from there.
If anything, this game demonstrated just how dangerous the Pirates' lineup can be against a left-handed pitcher with a legitimate second power bat from the right side, along with Neil Walker on the sidelines. Putting Byrd in the cleanup spot let Russell Martin and Gaby Sanchez slide down in the lineup. Sanchez had three hits and an RBI, Josh Harrison had three hits and three runs scored in place of Walker, and McCutchen and Jordy Mercer both had two hits, a run scored, and an RBI. If Gorzelanny hadn't somehow speared Byrd's line drive into his gut in the first inning and turned it into a double play, the game might've gone off of the rails much faster.
The difference between this game and Tuesday's, though, is that Charlie Morton never gave the Brewers a chance. After putting three runners on in the first inning (though Russell Martin caught Norichika Aoki stealing, keeping things from ever getting too bad), Morton absolutely cruised through the next five innings and seemed poised to pitch maybe into the eighth or ninth before a rough patch in the seventh ended his night. He only struck out two against his three walks, but he induced 11 groundouts and only had two flyouts in his 6 2/3 innings of work. Since getting rocked in the 13-0 game against the Cardinals at the beginning of August, Morton's made five starts. He's pitched into the seventh four times and only allowed eight runs to go with a 19:8 K/BB ratio (which was hurt a bit by tonight's start). He's been really, really good lately and it seems to me like he's getting a little bit better every time out.
The Cardinals lost tonight and have a travel day tomorrow, which means that it is entirely up to the Pirates whether or not they're tied for first place for the big weekend series.
All right! Now this is more like it. I really hope the Bucs can start building on this win, and that Byrd and 'Cutch can keep on playing some good baseball. This team has the potential, I've been seeing it all along, they just have to start being a bit more consistent in their performance than they have been as of late.
And Hurdle, don't you dare screw this gift up!
The Byrd moment was something special. I was thinking before the game that a blowout would be nice. Went exactly as planned.