It doesn’t have much impact on how this season will finish out for the Pittsburgh Pirates, nor does it exorcise any demons from Jerry Meals and what happened in Altanta last July.
But if any team needed this win, it was the Pirates.
Pedro Alvarez broke a 3-3 tie with a solo homer in the top of the 19th inning and Wandy Rodriguez retired the side in order in the bottom half of the frame as the Bucs won the series from the St. Louis Cardinals with a 6-3 win Sunday afternoon, or should I say Sunday night.
This series had a playoff feel to it and the good news is that the Pirates pitching returned to playoff form just in time. Sunday’s starter Jeff Karstens was no exception as he tossed seven innings of two-hit baseball, allowing only two runs when he left a pitch out over the plate to Carlos Beltran in the fourth inning that the multi-time All-Star smacked into the right field corner for a two-run double.
That would be all the Cardinals would muster for a very long time.
However Jaime Garcia was equally as good for the Redbirds.
Making his first start in about two months, Garcia allowed two unearned runs in eight innings, surrendering five hits, striking out 10.
The Bucs tied the game in the sixth thanks in part to Garcia’s misplay on a Karstens bunt. That helped extend the inning as Josh Harrison made it 2-1 on a sac fly to center and Andrew McCutchen tied the game by beating out an infield single.
After that both teams’ bats were silent for a very long time, although both clubs had plenty of chances to cash in.
Karstens and Garcia had plenty of time to catch a couple-hour nap and wake up in time to see the end of the game.
Finally the Bucs broke through in the 17th when Garrett Jones, who failed earlier in extra innings with runners in scoring position, hit a soft roller just to the side of the mound that St. Louis pitcher Mark Rzepczynski couldn’t field. It was a play that should have easily been made, but the Bucs got a gift as pinch-hitter James McDonald, who singled earlier in the inning, scored from third base.
However, Juan Cruz couldn’t hold the Cardinals down as Yadier Molina and Skip Schumaker led off the inning with singles. Tony Cruz tied the game with a sac fly, but Juan was able to limit the damage and keep the game tied at 3.
It stayed that way until the 19th when Alvarez touched up reliever Barrett Browning with a solo shot to make it 4-3. McCutchen laced a single into right that scored a pair to add some insurance.
Rodriguez was scheduled to start tomorrow in San Diego, but had to work in relief for the first time in six years and got the finals six outs to earn his first win in a Pirates uniform. No one expected it to come in relief, but the Bucs will take it.
Each team used eight pitchers, but the seven relievers the Pirates used were just as good as Karstens. The combination of Jason Grilli, Chris Resop, Kevin Correia, Joel Hanrahan, Jared Hughes, Cruz and Rodriguez combined to allow only one run (Cruz) and nine hits (three by Cruz) in 12 innings.
No one knows what this win will do for this Pirates team with over 40 games remaining, but the important part is that they took 2-of-3 from a team chasing them and opened up a two game lead over the Cardinals for the final wild card spot. These games had a playoff feel to them and Clint Hurdle’s squad didn’t fold.
The only certainty that comes of this win is that the flight to San Diego is going to be much more pleasant for these Pirates than it would have had things turned out differently.
Notes: Jordy Mercer wasn’t expected to play but had to come in in the 14th and went 2-for-4. His wrist seems fine, but he will be away from the team as he will be going on paternity leave….Travis Snider, who is hitting .321 since joining the Pirates, had to leave the game with what looked to be a groin injury….Jose Tabata was re-called before the game as Starling Marte went on the 15-day disabled list. Tabata went 2-for-7 with a double but continued to show the inability to do the little things correctly, which drives Pirates fans nuts. Tabata was caught stealing second, picked off first and failed to get a bunt down properly….Each team left 13 men on base….There were 34 combined strikeouts (Pirates – 19, Cardinals – 15)….Both teams used 22 different players as only A.J. Burnett, Erik Bedard and Tony Watson did not see action for the Bucs…There were 574 combined pitches….The Pirates went 16-for-66 (.242) at the plate and the Red Birds went 11-for-68 (.161)….Neil Walker returned to action as he was forced into pinch-hitting duties in the 11th. But with runners on first and third with one out, bounced into an inning ending double play….The homer by El Toro wasn’t just the game winner, but was the first homer hit by either team in the series….Jeff Locke pitched six innings today and Chris Leroux pitched five on Friday so they wouldn’t be options if the Bucs need an arm tomorrow from Triple-A, but tomorrow would be Justin Wilson’s scheduled day, so he could be an option if they elect to go that route.
Winning Pitcher: Wandy Rodriguez (8-12)
Losing Pitcher: Barrett Browning (1-3)
MVP: Pirates bullpenL 12.0 IP, 9 H, 1 R, 11K, 3BB
LVP: Michael McKenry: 0-for-8, 2 K. The Fort hasn’t had a hit in his last 16 at bats.
Play of the Game: Pedro’s homer in the 19th gets the nod. It seemed to take the monkey off the Pirates back.
Home Runs: Alvarez (23)
Up Next: Monday, August 20 at 10:05 p.m. at San Diego Padres
Probable Starters: TBD at Edison Volquez (7-9, 4.31 ERA)