Found June 29, 2013 on
Pedro Alvarez launched his 10th June home run, most in a month for his career. (Photo Credit: David Hague)
From Pedro Alvarez homering into the Allegheny River to Garrett Jones homering into the center field bushes, the Pirates got the natural environment involved in their eighth-straight win Saturday night. It contrasted with the supernatural – the Bucs reaching 50 wins in June for the first time in franchise history and maintaining baseball’s best record.
A 2-1 victory in front of a record fifth-straight PNC Park sellout showed an unnatural baseball fever developing in front of the Pittsburgh skyline. And the players feel it.
“We’re playing for ourselves, but there’s about 40,000 people tonight,” closer Jason Grilli said. “It’s just awesome to see everybody dusting off their Pirates shirts and coming out in droves to finally get what they’ve been wanting for so long.”
Starter Francisco Liriano’s offspeed stuff was a force of nature itself, generating 9 Brewers swings-and-misses and helping the Pittsburgh lefty to six strikeouts and his 5th quality start in June. Pitching strong middle innings almost allowed Liriano to go for a season-long start, but he allowed three hits and his only run in his 6th and final inning.
“It means a lot to me,” Liriano said. “Every five days, just trying to give it everything I have.”
Offense was hard for the Pirates to – ahem – run into aside from the left-handed home runs. Rookie Donovan Hand looked like a natural as he kept the Pirates at bay over his five innings, though he did get his first MLB loss in the start. Only three Pittsburgh baserunners got into scoring position on Hand and no inning saw more than one hit.
But Alvarez and Jones showed the power that has become second nature for them. Alvarez crushed a 1-2 curveball over the stands, through a tree and into the Allegheny to open the scoring and notch his 20th home run, only one behind NL leaders Carlos Gonzalez and Domonic Brown. Jones’ homer to lead off the 4th simply kept traveling and traveling until it found leaves. Starling Marte’s 3rd-inning double (which could have been a triple if Marte were not about to lap Liriano on the bases) was the Pirates’ only other extra-base hit.
Francisco Liriano goes to 7-3 this year, tying him for the team-high in wins. (Photo Credit: David Hague)
Naturally, it wasn’t easy for Liriano with a small lead. Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said Liriano was “challenged” by the Brewers’ righty-heavy lineup, especially Carlos Gomez grabbing a triple to the Notch and infield single, but the starter got strikeouts and scoreless frames in each of his first five innings. His outing kept the Pirates’ team ERA at an MLB-best 3.15 this season.
“It’s all about location when I’m pitching here,” Liriano said, as he allowed no walks after his first batter. ”Every time I pitch against the Brewers, it’s a battle for me.”
Liriano said he could have gone another inning, but it’s in Hurdle’s nature to go to his stellar bullpen. Tony Watson went 1-2-3 in the 7th. Mark Melancon collected two strikeouts and a scoreless 8th. Then Jason Grilli needed only six pitches to rebound from a three-runs-allowed struggle Sunday, get his league-leading 27th save and wrap up the half-century wins mark in front of 38,438 cheering fireworks-turned-baseball fans.
“Sellout crowds, we’ve been waiting for that,” Grilli said. “I’m excited and elated to be in the situation where that energy, just soaking it. It’s going in to me.”
And it’s going into the Pirates’ success. The Bucs are now 20 games above .500, have won 10 of their last 12 games and clinched a third-straight series victory against a Brewers team that had gone 69-24 against them over the previous six seasons. Pittsburgh has built a 10-game cushion for a playoff spot as it enters the season’s halfway point following Sunday’s game.
Seems like something out of The Natural, eh?
BEST OF MAXIM
AROUND THE WEB
I am 21-year-old college student, and I was six months old the last time the Pirates had a winning season. So technically I was alive last time the Pirates had a winning season, but for argument’s sake I have never seen a winning season. I have witnessed the likes of Brian Giles, Jason Kendall, Jason Bay, Kris Benson, Aramis Ramirez, and plenty of others come and go while showing...
EAT SOME DIRT
Your browser does not support iframes. The Pittsburgh Pirates mascot fell over a railing and landed headfirst onto the field during the ninth inning Sunday's game at PNC Park. The Pirate Parrot was sitting in the front row of the stands in left field at ground level and leaned over the railing to try to snag a foul grounder by Pirates batter Josh Harrison when he suffered...
TOP OF THE SYSTEM
A look at how the current top 20 prospects did today. Note that this list doesn’t include players currently in the majors. If a player is in the majors, he will be removed, everyone below him will be shifted up a spot, and a new player will be added to the bottom of the list. Rankings are from the mid-season rankings, and links on each name go to their Pirates...
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The Pittsburgh Pirates signed top draft pick Austin Meadows on Friday.
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Nearly half way through the Major League Baseball season, the Pittsburg Pirates 49-30 record is the best in the league.
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Starling Marte was just a few feet short of hitting for the cycle. (Photo Credit: David Hague)
The Pirates needed to come back from an early deficit to grab their seventh-straight win. Once they did, the Bucs tacked on another. Then another. Then another. Then one more. Now they have the best record in Major League Baseball.
The Bucs’ half of the 2nd inning had everything: six...
Vin Mazzaro threw five perfect innings in relief. (Photo by: David Hague)
What a way to close out the Pirates’ most successful first half in four decades.
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Helped by a two-hour rain delay, the...
As the Pittsburgh Pirates continue to roll, the Milwaukee Brewers find themselves in another slide.
Alone atop the NL Central, the Pirates look to extend their longest winning streak in nine seasons to eight games while trying to hand the Brewers a fourth consecutive defeat Saturday night.
Pittsburgh (49-30) won six straight to conclude a 7-2 trip, then used a seven-run second...
Brewers (32-46) at Pirates (49-30)
7:15 PM–PNC Park, Pittsburgh
The first place Pittsburgh Pirates go for eight in a row tonight against the last place Milwaukee Brewers. PNC Park should be sold out for the fifth straight game (it’s Fireworks Night, after all) and it should be a great atmosphere on the North Shore.
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The Pittsburgh Pirates are playing so well that they have to feel they can earn a rare win over Kyle Lohse.
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Pittsburgh (50-30) owns baseball's best record thanks to its longest win streak since a 10-game run June 26-July...
Pinch-hitter Russell Martin singled home the winning run in the 14th inning and the Pittsburgh Pirates earned their ninth straight victory, defeating the Milwaukee Brewers 2-1 Sunday.
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Gaby Sanchez led...
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