It’s been seven years since the Pirates have been a nationally televised game on ESPN. That was prior to to the All-Star game in Pittsburgh. No one on this current team was here. Last season, John Kruk was pushing for the mothership to make an appearance in Pittsburgh. Unfortunately, the Pirates were out of the race by the time ESPN considered it.
So with their success last year, ESPN had to consider a trip to Pittsburgh at the beginning of the year right? Actually, no. In their N.L. Central prediction poll, they asked who would win the division.
Yes Pirate fans, YOUR team was in the other category.
It’s funny what winning can do. At nine games over .500 and just two games out of the wild card spot, ESPN finally made their way back to Pittsburgh. When they made the trip in 2005, the Pirates lost to the Phillies 12-1. Making fans nervous, they had to face one of the top offenses in baseball on national television with Wandy Rodriguez on the hill. The way that Rodriguez has pitched, saving his last two starts, can you blame fans for being pessimistic about this game?
But for Rodriguez, he finally turned in the Wandy-ful performance that fans and his team have waited for.
“I was working hard today,” Rodriguez said. “I was using a lot of my two-seamers and also in 3-2 counts. That’s what I did today. I relied a lot on my two-seamer.”
Pirates manager Clint Hurdle was also very satisfied with the southpaw’s work.
“Truth be told, that’s not the sharpest Wandy I’ve ever seen, but it was an effective Wandy,” Hurdle said. “He made pitches when he had to.”
It wasn’t only the work of Rodriguez that led the Pirates to a 5-0 victory to take the series, but the red-hot Pedro Alvarez, who hit two home runs last night, continued to show that when he’s locked in, he’s one of the most dangerous hitters in baseball.
Alvarez took a Joe Kelly pitch in the third inning over the Clemente Wall in right field for a three-run shot and just missed hitting a ball out of the stadium for the second consecutive night.
“The thing about comfort is you don’t really think much when you go up there and you feel comfortable,” Alvarez said. “Comfort and confidence go hand-in-hand and can do a lot for you.”
With a double in the fifth, Alvarez pushed his numbers to an astounding 23-58 against the Cardinals this year with seven home runs and 23 RBIs. Needless to say if the Pirates had to face the Cardinals in a one-game playoff, at least Alvarez would find success.
“I’m just going out there and competing,” Alvarez said. “They’re a great team and demand full concentration. It’s just one of those things.”
With shutting out the Cardinals for the second consecutive game, the Pirates have shut down the Red Bird’s top offense for 21 consecutive innings.
With three games against Milwaukee after a day off tomorrow, the Pirates will go to Jeff Karstens, A.J. Burnett and James McDonald in the weekend trifecta. After losing two of three against the Brewers at home and with their three top pitchers going for them, this is the series the Pirates need to make up ground on the competition.
Facing Karstens (5-3, 3.47 ERA) on Friday will be Mark Rogers (2-1, 4.28 ERA). First pitch comes at 7:10 P.M.
Photo Credits: UPI