Originally written on Raise the Jolly Roger!  |  Last updated 10/20/14
After one day of relief and joy, Pirate fans are back in a foul mood again after another extra inning loss to the Cardinals on Thursday. The Bucs botched another lead and threw away some chances late in the game, and eventually suffered their second walk off loss in three days. The loss drops their lead back to two games in the Central, and the Reds continue to close in at just two and a half games back. For the second straight start, A.J. Burnett pitched well early and got some rare run support. He was rolling along through the first four innings, and when the Pirates broke through for a huge four-run fifth off Lance Lynn, everything looked under control. Andrew Lambo pounded an RBI double for his first career hit, and Clint Barmes blasted his third homer of the year and his first since May. A Starling Marte triple and Neil Walker sac fly tacked on one more run, and the Bucs seemed poised for a series win. The lead did not last long, as Burnett imploded just as he did late in his previous start in Colorado. Six of the first seven Cardinal batters in the fifth inning ripped sharp line drive base hits, and the only exception was a failed bunt by the pitcher. All of a sudden the lead was gone and the Bucs trailed, 5-4. Burnett had to come out of the game after just 4.1, and a great situation had turned ugly quickly. The bullpen was phenomenal once again (ho hum), keeping the Pirates in the game. They threatened but failed to score in the sixth, then maddeningly screwed up a leadoff double in the seventh with a foolish Marte sac-bunt that led to a McCutchen intentional walk and a LOOGY matchup with Pedro that predictably led to an inning-ending K. Russell Martin came up huge, though, and led off the eighth with a solo blast to tie it up. Once again, the bullpen gets major kudos. Vin Mazzaro and Justin Wilson kept the deficit at one, and then Tony Watson pitched three absolutely brilliant innings to keep the game tied. The Bucs got a few aboard in the eleventh but couldn’t get it done with RISP — an all too familiar tale — and they were quiet otherwise in the late innings. Eventually, Bryan Morris came on and gave up the winner after a one out walk and a slow dribbler through the infield put men at the corners. Matt Holliday worked a full count and crushed one up the middle for a walk off base hit. Unfortunately, if the Pirates fail to hold on to the NL Central lead and come up a game or two short, these games will be at the front of people’s minds. They were very winnable and the Bucs botched multiple chances to get a big series win, or even a sweep. The losses hurt in the standings and the NLC race has tightened up considerably. That said, I’m feeling a lot better about the team’s current play overall compared to after the Colorado series. The Pirates hung right with St. Louis this week twice and beat them soundly once–they arguably outplayed the Cards on the road. The pitching looked mostly very good (minus Burnett today) and while the offense didn’t quite get the job done, it wasn’t exactly nonexistent. I still feel good about the Pirates matching up head to head against the Cards, and they will do just that six more times this season. Still, they’ll need to pick things up another notch this weekend to hold on to their lead, and I think this week of intense and stressful baseball was just an introduction to this pennant race for Pirates fans. Cardinals 6, Pirates 5 / Box / 2013 Record: 71-49 / Next: Friday, vs. D-Backs, 7:05 Source: FanGraphs

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