After watching their bats being silenced in the first two games of the series against the Chicago Cubs by Jeff Samardzija and Paul Maholm, the Pittsburgh Pirates needed a jolt of something to get back on the winning track.
They may have gotten exactly that in the form of the Zoltan Z, as Hal Sparks, the actor who portrayed the bubbled wrap-clad cult leader that inspired the Pirates Zoltan Z symbol from the movie “Dude Where’s My Car?” was on hand to throw out the first pitch.
Whether “The Z,” had an impact or you go with the traditional theory of good pitching and timely hitting, the Bucs got a much needed win Wednesday afternoon with a 3-2 victory over the visiting Cubs.
A day after acquiring Wandy Rodriguez from the Houston Astros, Kevin Correia got the opportunity to make his case for remaining in the Pirates rotation and he took advantage of the opportunity, throwing six solid innings, allowing only four hits and two runs, striking out four and walking two.
Correia had his problems with Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo who put Chicago up 1-0 with a no-doubter in the first and put them up 2-1 with an RBI single in the third. But other than those two blemishes, Correia and the Pirates bullpen were outstanding on the day.
Neil Walker tied the game in the first with a solo shot of his own and then catcher Michael McKenry did the same with a shot off the foul pole in the fifth.
However it was Garrett Jones who delivered the biggest hit of the game.
Alex Presley singled with one-out in the sixth and then Andrew McCutchen came through with a two-out single that moved Presley to third. Jones came through with a run scoring double to give the Bucs a 3-2 lead they would never relinquish.
The Pirates bullpen continued to do an outstanding job as the combination of Jared Hughes, Jason Grilli and Joel Hanrahan combined to throw three inning of scoreless, one-hit baseball. It was a good thing as well because the Pirates never got another base runner after the go-ahead double from Jones.
Despite dropping the first two games of the series, it was a successful 4-2 homestand for the Pirates, who now embark on a 10-game road trip that features four games in Houston, followed by three in Chicago and three in Cincinnati.
Notes: Hanrahan tied Craig Kimbrel for the NL lead in saves with 29….The Bucs hit the road at 13 games over .500 and two games behind the Reds in the National League Central race, but hold the lead for the first Wild Card spot….Rodriguez will make his first start for the Pirates on Saturday in Houston against his former team, no announcement has been made about who will leave the rotation as Jeff Karstens, Erik Bedard and Correia all pitched very well in their most recent starts….Both teams had only five hits on the afternoon and Cubs starter Ryan Dempster retired 13 straight Pirates hitters in between the two solo homers.
Winning Pitcher: Correia (8-6)
Losing Pitcher: Dempster (5-5)
Save: Hanrahan (29)
MVP: Pirates Bullpen (Hughes, Grilli, Hanrahan), 3.0 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 4 K, 0 BB. They got a lead and shut the door on the Cubs.
LVP: Luis Valbuena, o-for-4, 3 K (Dale Sveum gets a nod here for not having Pirates killer Alfonso Soriano in the lineup).
Play of the Game: Jones’ two-out, go-ahead double in the sixth.
Home Runs: Rizzo (5), Walker (9), McKenry (8)
Up Next: Thursday, July 26 at Houston Astros at 8:05 p.m. EDT
Probable Starters: A.J. Burnett (11-3, 3.59 ERA) vs. Dallas Keuchel (1-2, 4.03)