Let's all exhale just a little bit.
After last night's debacle, the Pirates got a little bit of everything that they needed tonight. AJ Burnett came out tonight with a slider that should've been required by law to have a turn signal affixed to it. He spotted the Reds a 2-0 lead, then completely shut them down from innings 3-7. He racked up 12 strikeouts in total and he only allowed two base runners over his last five innings, which game the Pirates plenty of time to get back into the game. I don't know what I imagined for AJ Burnett's Pirate career when they picked him up just before spring training in 2012, but it's incredible how far the team has come from that point to one in which Burnett is racking up strikeouts in front of a sold-out PNC Park in a pivotal game during a playoff race. Seeing him leap off the mound and pump his fist after striking out Henry Rodriguez to end the sevneth inning was a chill-inducing moment.
Of course, Burnett needed help from the bats and he managed to get it tonight. Russell Martin tied the game at two in the second inning with his 15th home run, then the Pirates tacked two on in the bottom of the sixth when Andrew McCutchen walked, went to third on an errant pickoff throw, and scored on Marlon Byrd's sac fly. Justin Morneau sandwiched a walk in there, advanced to second on the sac fly, and scored on a Pedro Alvarez single. Four runs off of Homer Bailey at PNC Park is a rare occurance for the Pirates.
And the final thing that both the Pirates and Pirate fans needed tonight was a strong outing from the bullpen. Bryan Morris started the eighth and got a ground out, then was replaced by Justin Wilson after walking Brandon Phillips. Wilson got Joey Votto to bounce into an inning-ending double play. Jason Grili came on in the ninth to close out the win and after giving up a leadoff single to Ryan Ludwick, he got a double play of his own with Jay Bruce at the plate (I'm pretty sure I watched that whole at-bat with my hands over my eyes; I doubt I was alone). Two pitches later, Zack Cozart bounced out to Clint Barmes and that was it.
I know it's not easy, but let's just forget last night for a second. The Pirates have 89 wins now, and a one-game lead over the Reds. Their magic number to clinch a playoff spot is three. The Nationals and Marlins are still locked in a loooong rain delay in DC, but it seems like they're intent on trying to play at some point tonight. It's still not entirely out of the question that the Pirates can have a playoff spot locked up before they leave for Chicago tomorrow afternoon. The Cardinals won easily tonight, which maintains their two-game lead over the Pirates. The Pirates can do nothing now except for put this week's two ugly losses behind them and try to win the games in front of them. Doing that will ensure a wild card playoff game at PNC Park and not anywhere else, at the very least. They took a nice step in that direction tonight. There's still more baseball left to be played.
The 2013 Pirates showed us what they were made of last night which certainly looked liked a clubhouse full of heart to me. Could they lose a one and done Wildcard Game vs the Red Legs at GAB or PNC? Of course they could........but they could also win that that game. I think the doom and gloom and devastated posters from last night are very fragile Pirate fans. They worry the Pirates might make a playoff run which creates the fear that the Pirates will lose in a Game 5 NLDS or Game 7 NLCS scenario and they view that as more failure, not success. The ones who wrote we might not even make the playoffs, I don't consider you Pirates fans. Please post on here as non-Pirate fans for the rest of year and figure out who you really want to support during the offseason. Going to win 90+ games this year with a such a small payroll....nice. The last time I looked at our minor league prospects, the Pirates were ranked 6th in all of MLB so the future looks good....nice. And oh by the way, if you know anything about professional sports, the Pirates are putting a much better team on the field than the Steelers are right now so freaking enjoy it.
Like I said in an earlier thread here today, if you want to be devastated,step right up. It's a good thing that the players don't have some " fan's " mentality.
I was very disheartened by the blown game the other night until I looked at the standings and the Pirates were two games from 90 wins. 90 freaking wins! Now they are only one win away from 90 and very close to clinching a playoff spot. It's a great day in America.
Oh, and the 2013 Pirates merely picked themselves up off the mat last night to beat a pitcher who has never lost at PNC and threw a no hitter vs. them last year at PNC (a game which clinched a 20th consecutive non-winning season BTW). There is a lot of character on this Pirates' team. There is also a lot of character on the Cards and Reds Teams.....reason they are all going to the playoffs.