Here's the rule: there's no complaining about the circumstances of victories at this point in the season. There's no "if the Cubs weren't baseball idiots that bunted with their leadoff hitter with two runners on and nobody out in the ninth inning of a 3-1 game ..." There are only wins.
On Sunday, after being swept by the Cardinals, the Pirates faced the prospect of either finding a way to win some games or settling for the wild card. They've won four in a row since then, and if the Brewers can hold on (currently up 4-2 in the seventh inning), they'll be back in a tie for first place.
Tonight's win was particularly nice to see because it featured the return of First Half Jeff Locke. Locke cruised through seven innings, striking out five, walking one, and holding the Cubs to just one run. From what I saw of Locke (and it was only his first few innings, since I had to go out for softball), the important thing that he had going for him tonight was the return of his control. He threw exactly 100 pitches and threw 61 strikes. That control, coupled with ten groundouts and only one flyout, gave Locke his best start since before the All-Star break.
As it turned out, the Pirates needed a good outing from Locke. They hit Scott Rusin pretty hard early on, but a combination of balls hit right at guys and a really bad call in the first inning left them behind 1-0 in the fourth. That was when Jordy Mercer, Andrew McCutchen, Marlon Byrd, and Pedro Alvarez strung together four hits in five batters to bring home two runs. Mercer doubled in Clint Barmes in the eighth to provide an insurance run, and Tony Watson and Mark Melancon finished off Locke's game with relative ease (Melancon put the first two guys he faced on base, but one of them reached on a strikeout).
Dale Sveum isn't any better than his twin Dave, evidently. The remainder of the season is in the hands of the Buccos now that we are even with those Cards. Can the pitching look like it did in May-June? I love how Watson is looking too.
Aaaaaaand, Cards lose!
Nice game by Locke, really nice. What I think he is doing again is working quickly, taking less time between pitches. He seemed to slow down in July and August.
I love seeing him and AJ together during the game. If Locke learns the knuckle curve he'll be unhittable. But just absorbing the attitude, that works for me.