Since two Sundays ago and the 19-inning win, the Pirates have let just about everyone down. They had gone 1-6 before tonight’s victory and were swept by the San Diego Padres just last week. Everyone has been talking about how the teams chances of making the playoffs are now over, but a game like tonight’s could change that all around.
Sure, it will only go into the standings as one win, but it could mean a lot more to the Pirates than that. James McDonald pitching effectively is something we have only seen twice this second half, and both of his solid outings have come against the Cardinals. Hopefully he can build off of his strong, seven inning, two hit start tonight and look like the J-Mac we saw in the first half. If McDonald can get rolling again and A.J. Burnett can return to his dominant form, along with Jeff Karstens being extremely consistent, the rotation could be one of the better ones down the stretch.
Not only is it good to see McDonald being effective, but it looks like Andrew McCutchen might have broke out of his little funk as well. He missed a home run by inches tonight and has been hitting balls fairly hard these past couple games. We have only seen two home runs from McCutchen since July 17th, but before that he was putting up video game numbers, with an average around .370. If McCutchen were to go back to the June/July Cutch, the Pirates will look scary good these next couple weeks, and make this wild card hunt one to remember.
Another note on the offensive side, is that Pedro Alvarez looks like he is about to start up one of his tears. Like we have seen in the past, once Alvarez gets on a roll, there aren’t many ways to stop him. When the offense was struggling earlier in the year, Alvarez hit seven home runs in nine games and collected fourteen hits over that span. There was also another time in mid July, right after the all star break, that Alvarez racked up five home runs through nine games. He is clearly one of the more streaky hitters in the league, and there are times where he is extremely tough to watch, but when he’s hot and on a roll, he is easily one of the more feared hitters in the league. He hit two home runs tonight, which were both absolutely crushed. The first one was an opposite field two run shot, to the deepest part of the yard in left center field, right over top of the North Side Notch. The second one traveled 469 feet, the longest by a Pirate ever at PNC Park, and eventually left the stadium bouncing onto the river walk. One of the preseason talks was how much Alvarez meant to the team and how the outcome of his season could affect the outcome of the teams season overall. If Alvarez gets hot, and McCutchen is out of his slump, this offense could jump right back to what it looked like in June and July.
The final part about tonight’s game that could spark the Bucs is the whole Josh Harrison deal that occurred tonight. Harrison was involved in a collision at the plate with Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina in the second inning. Molina held onto the ball, and Harrison was called out, but it led to a huge deal later on in the game. Harrison was hit by a pitch a few innings later, which fired up Clint Hurdle and the rest of the team. The home plate umpire warned both benches and Clint Hurdle was immediately out of the dugout to argue. Rod Barajas was seen from the dugout screaming at either the umpire or Cardinals bench and it goes to show that the team is still extremely involved, and wanting to win. There were talks about how the team had stopped caring, and after seeing the reaction by Pirate players and coaches after Harrison was hit, that statement is absolutely false.
As I said above, the game only goes into the standings as a win for the Pirates and a loss for the Cardinals, but it meant a whole lot more. If the Pirates were to come away with a series win tomorrow night, it would be huge for the Bucs. After a rough week and a half, the team might be back into gear and have a September to remember. Make sure you tune in tomorrow night for the rubber match of the series, a game that will be aired on ESPN Wednesday Night Baseball, and will be the last matchup of the regular season between these two division rivals.
Photo Credits: UPI.com