There are two ways to look at this game. One way would be to simply say this: Andrew Cashner was freaking awesome. The other way would be to pick at it. To say that the Pirates haven't really hit well lately, despite all the wins, and that AJ Burnett has been incredible for the Pirates and that he clearly means a lot to the team both on the field and in the locker room, but geez, why won't Clint Hurdle pull him at the first sign of trouble because it seems like when it goes south for him lately it happens in the blink of an eye.
I am inclined to lean towards the first explanation. One of the things that I've noticed, particularly this summer, is that fans (and I certainly include myself in this) have a tendency to praise and compliment players based entirely on the outcome of the game reletive to their favorite team. When Jason Grilli cut through the heart of the Tigers' lineup in a one-run game like he was Spark Anderson's ideal realization of a relief pitcher, it happened because Jason Grilli was awesome. When Grant Balfour did the same thing to the Pirates, well, happened because Andrew McCutchen's not clutch and Pedro Alvarez just swings at everything. Andrew Cashner was great in this game; he threw his fastball from 96-99 and he used a changeup and a wicked slider to get whiffs. The Padres wanted him in the Anthony Rizzo trade for a reason.
And yet, it's hard not to be frustrated, isn't it? The Cardinals lost tonight, so a Pirate win would've put them alone in first place. The way that Hurdle's consistently stuck with Burnett after he's run out of gas is really frustrating, because it seems so avoidable. Cashner was great, but was he 27-batter complete game great? Was he "Maddux" (that is, a complete game with less than 100 pitches) great?
Maybe what's frustrating is having the shoe on the other foot. For years, all that we Pirate fans have ever had to hope for is a great performance here or there that throws a wrench into some other team's post-season plans. Obviously you root against some teams more than others, but any win over a contender that creates a new stumbling block for them feels nice when you're buried in the standings. That's what the Padres did to the Pirates tonight. It happens, but that doesn't make it less frustrating.
I don't think everything is mutually exclusive, though. I don't "mind" the loss or even the 1 hitter because Cashner WAS dealing and it is just bad luck that the few times the Bucs made solid contact, the Padres defense did the work (thinking Barmes' line drive and McCutchen's DP ball specifically).
On the other hand, Hurdle DOES always seem to give AJ just enough rope to hang himself (Grilli, now, too). On the third hand, faith in your staff is important. AJ and Grilli would probably be furious if they were treated like September callups and that can't be ignored completely.
How about the cards coming back to tie the Rockies, then giving up 4 in the bottom of the 8th? I'd rather run into the buzzsaw that was Cashner last night. He was dealing. Yeah, he was helped by the Pirates' propensity for aggressively striking out, but that kid was going to beat any team on the planet last night. The Bucs' only hope was to get him into a high pitch count in the later innings, and he never got there. No hits, one hit, four hits, it wouldn't have mattered: he was quick, efficient, and accurate.
@TomBrenholts Rosenthal looked extremely hittable last night in 8th inning vs Rockies. Perhaps the Cards relievers are wearing out. Siegrist gave up a run in the 7th too if I'm not mistaken. Anyway, I'm glad the Bucs aren't out in Denver trying to add to their win column. Yes, we struggle mightily it seems vs the Padres (home or away) but I'll take our schedule over the Cards' right now. One concern however is are we going to face Johnny Cueto twice as we go down the stretch? Perhaps his good outing last night vs the Astros was partially because it was vs the Astros but have the Bucs ever done much vs Cueto? My recollection is "not so much."