Due to circumstances well beyond my control, I got to watch none of this game until the bottom of the eighth inning. Being unable to watch the biggest Pirate game in the last 21 years is a particularly helpless feeling, given that until about 2 PM I thought that I was going to be able to sneak out of lab just after three and see the bulk of the game. Instead, all I could do was check my phone and hold my breath, hoping that Charlie Morton's stretch of zereos could continue and that somebody would get a hit off of Michael Wacha.
In any case, I don't have a lot to add beyond what was in the box score and I'm not sure that there's much to add, really. Before the game, Travis Sawchik speculated that Morton would need his changeup to keep the Cardinals' lefties in check and that seemed to make plenty of sense, but Morton kept the Cardinals down with the fastball/sinker/curveball mix that's been so good to him all year. He gave up Matt Holliday's two-run homer, but little else. I certainly would've taken 5 2/3 innings of two-run ball from Morton before the game started, because it was good enough to keep them in the game.
The problem, of course, is that Michael Wacha was just better. Any hope that the Pirates had of Wacha being rusty after not starting for so long or overwhelmed by the big situation was put to bed pretty early on, and Wacha cruised through five innings before even allowing a base runner. He averaged 95 with his fastball and got it up to almost 98, mixed with a 77 mph curve and his ridiculous 88 mph changeup. When I finally got to a computer, Justin Wilson was putting the Cardinals down in the top of the eighth and Wacha was still chasing a no-hitter. As it turned out, that chase only lasted one more batter; after Marlon Byrd struck out to start the eighth, Pedro Alvarez crushed his third home run of the series, Russell Martin drew a walk, and Wacha's afternoon was over. 7 1/3 innings, one hit, one run, nine strikeouts, two walks. It's awfully hard to win when the other starter goes out and pitches like Wacha does.
And yet, the Pirates still almost found a way. They got the tying run on base in the eighth and ninth, with Andrew McCutchen stepping up as the winning run with two outs in the bottom of the ninth against Trevor Rosenthal. Unfortunately, he got underneath Rosenthal's 3-1 fastball just a little bit too much, and popped it up to Matt Carpenter for the final out.
This is why Sunday's game was so huge, of course. Being dominated by Wacha was always a possibility that existed once Wacha was announced as the starter for this game, and even though that's what happened, the Pirates nearly found a way to pull the game out. This all counts for very little, of course. Through four games, you could say that each game in the series has turned out an outcome that was relatively predictable beforehand. The recipe for a Pirate victory before the series would've been to win the Cole vs. Lynn matchup and the Kelly vs. Liriano at PNC matchup, then find one more win against either Wacha or in one of Wainwright's two starts. The Pirates still have one more chance to do that, on Wednesday evening.
Clint Hurdle wasted no time after the game in naming Gerrit Cole as his starter for Game 5. Given the way Cole has pitched down the stretch, the way that Burnett has pitched in St. Louis, and the way the first two games of this series went, I think that that was pretty clearly the right call. Cole has the best shot at matching zeroes with Wainwright on Wednesday, if need be, and it very well might come down to that. The Pirates (and all Pirate fans, I would assume) wanted to avoid a Game 5, but that's not going to happen. Game 5 is coming and that's all that matters now.
Returning to St. Louis to face Wainwright again might be the most terrifying thing I have experienced as a Pirates fan. Cueto in the Wild Card was scary, but I think now I am more invested in the Pirates actually winning and the fact that they have the ability to advance in these playoffs.
Thank God Hurdle didn't go the "proven veteran" route for Wednesday; I would not have been responsible for my actions if he did.
This was a great game, both teams played well enough to win on most days, just too bad for the Pirates and their fans that they were on the losing end. I really thought the Bucs would pull it out once Alvarez homered.
Somehow, these late season losses are a little easier to live with and the wins are more meaningful after reading the level-headed, no-nonsense whygavs summaries. Hats off to Pat Lackey for this wonderful Pirates fandom community resource.
If I never have to watch another game on TBS,it will be to damned soon ! The play by play is terrible,and the color man just as bad. And that " Pitch Trax " ? What a disgrace.
@JeffreyMccartney : should have added " after this season is over ". Umpiring is bad enough with out that Godawful " Pitch Trax " and bad camera angle they have that makes the calls look even worse than they are.