There may have been a help wanted sign or two floating around Pittsburgh after the Pirates time and again left runners on base in Saturday’s loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Consider the result, 24 hours later an answer to said signs.
It was a game in which Starling Marte was a late scratch and frankly they did not need him by any means as the Pirates won, 11-3.
This is the Pirates offense fans have loved for most of this season. Eleven runs on 16 hits ,both of which were highlighted by a five-run first inning off Brett Anderson (0-1) who was throwing his first major league pitches all season.
Josh Harrison’s lea-doff at-bat may have been the smartest of the game. He knew Anderson could only throw a first-pitch fastball, and he pounced on the offering, hitting a single.
It set the stage for a five-run inning and eased any doubts Chad Kuhl (3-0) had.
The first-inning power came from among the most unlikely of sources.
First it was Jordy Mercer, hitting his eighth home run, a two-run blast. Mercer’s homer meant he had two home runs in a series for the first time since June 2-3 against the San Francisco Giants.
Then it was Sean Rodriguez, who got the bulk of his four RBI on a three-run home run, tying his career-high of 12 homers.
Rodriguez has been a pleasant surprise. Everyone knows he can play practically any position on a baseball field, but he has been a better defender and more patient at the plate. When he gets a pitch, he does not miss.
What was a question about why he was re-signed in the offseason is now a wonder as to if the Pirates can extend Rodriguez. His approach this season has made him a valuable bench asset, and the Pirates know what to expect out of him.
This game was good for the Pirates because everyone contributed in some way. It was especially key for Andrew McCutchen and Jung Ho Kang, who each have experienced extended struggles at the plate this season.
McCutchen singled in a run in the fourth inning and Kang homered to start off a four-run ninth inning.
Even Adam Frazier made the most of his fame replacing Marte getting a career-high four hits.
From a game standpoint, when you are a rookie pitcher and see your team up five runs it is very comforting, not that Kuhl needed much help based on his performance.
Kuhl fits the exact profile that the Pirates are looking for out of a starting pitcher. He does not go for the strikeout as much as trying to induce ground ball contact.
In this game, Kuhl had eight ground ball outs and did not have a single fly ball out.
For a third consecutive start and fourth in the past five, Kuhl allowed fewer than two runs, this time striking out five and not walking anyone on 102 pitches.
From a team perspective this was an important series win as the Dodgers rank first in the National League Wild Card.
Winning on the road has not been an easy task in general of late for this Pirates team, so to accomplish that against an opponent which is currently a measuring stick is quite important.
It sets the Pirates up for what is an important week.
First up is a three-game road series against the Giants.
The Giants have had quite the struggle for most of this second to half for the season and will not pitch Madison Bumgarner this series, giving the Pirates chances to capitalize.
After that series, the Pirates will return to PNC Park for another three-game series, this time against the Miami Marlins. Giancarlo Stanton is out for the season, and Adam Conley also was recently placed on the disabled list.
With the Marlins holding a wild card spot, the Pirates have a chance to create a divide.
This is a chance for the Pirates to catch some serious momentum in a time where it is needed. With no NL Central opponent this week, it gives the Pirates a chance to make an already tight wildcard race possibly tighter.
Photo credit: @Pirates