After losing two in a row against the Cubs and with Ryan Dempster on the mound, the Pirates were going to be happy with pretty much any sort of win to salvage the series against the Cubs this afternoon. As it happened, they got a pretty typical Pirate win to sneak a game out in this Cubs series and finish up their six-game homestand at 4-2.
It was a typical Pirate win because for the first five innings, the Pirates managed to answer every Cubs score with a solo home run. Neil Walker matched Anthony Rizzo's solo shot in the top of the first with one of his own in the bottom, then Mike McKenry hit a solo shot off of the left field foul pole in the bottom of the fifth to even the score at 2-2. In the sixth, Andrew McCutchen hit a two-out single on a 1-2 pitch to move Alex Presley into scoring position, then Garrett Jones doubled him home. Those three runs were enough, as Jared Hughes, Jason Grilli, and Joel Hanrahan did what they've been doing pretty much all season in slamming the door on the Cubs.
Kevin Correia also continued his recent run of strong starts, holding the Cubs to just two runs on four hits over his six innings of work. He struck out four hitters this afternoon, which gives him six, five, and four strikeouts (over 17 innings) in his last three starts. Prior to these three starts, he'd only hit the four-strikeout mark three times in his first 15 starts. We'll see how Clint Hurdle handles his rotation over the weekend once Wandy Rodriguez joins the team, but Correia's actually made a pretty decent case for himself lately.
What's important, of course, is that the Pirates snapped their mini-losing streak and got a win and that runs their record to 55-42, which is an awfully good place to be on July 25th, even if the team they're chasing seems like they've just decided to flat-out stop losing baseball games for now.
Is it possible they could think about going to a six man rotation this early to keep AJ and J Mac fresh for a playoff run? It is a pretty tough spot right now to pick a guy to sit when Karstens, Correia, and Bedard have pitched pretty good in their last starts.
I was blown away at the crowd, and it was electric towards the end of the game. 33,000 paid attendance for a 12:30 in the afternoon start on a Wednesday. The local television blackout might have a bit to do with that, but I have never seen a crowd like that on a weekday afternoon, with the sole exception being the opener's. To have 100k people come to a non-weekend series is a testament to how this town has latched on to this Pirate team. Hell, you barely hear any Steeler talk in town, and players report to camp today.