Originally written on Raise the Jolly Roger!  |  Last updated 6/8/12

Every win is enjoyable, but this one really meant a lot for the Pirates. It was a back-and-forth contest on the road with the division leader, and they ended up pulling it off in improbable fashion to win the series (their fourth in a row) and complete a winning road trip.  Awesome.

For some reason, all the Pirates wins on this road trip started off pretty poorly. This game was no different, as the entire Bucs lineup went down in order against Mike Leake during the first three innings. On the mound, Kevin Correia was bailed out by a nice Jose Tabata throw to the plate to save a run in the first, and surrendered a solo shot to Jay Bruce in the second.

The Pirates came right back, though, and were much better against Leake the second time around. It was kind of startling, actually – the first five Bucs to bat in the fourth all smoked the ball. Alex Presley and Neil Walker put a run on the board with back to back doubles, then Andrew McCutchen singled Walker to third and Garrett Jones lined a sac fly. Pedro Alvarez singled before a Tabata DP ended the rally, but the Bucs had the lead 2-1.

Correia had a pretty typical start – he was adequate for a while but allowed another homer, this time to Ryan Ludwick (former Pirate, grumble grumble), to tie the game. Jones singled home Presley to give the Bucs the lead back, but Correia, much like he has in other recent outings, wilted in the sixth. It seemed like a bad idea from the start to let him face the Reds’ fearsome 3-4-5 hitters, and by the time he did the game was tied with men at the corners and one out.

Jared Hughes came on in relief and did an absolutely brilliant job working out of that jam with a groundout, K, and flyout. The rookie continues to get enormous outs, and that was a huge point in the game that ended up being overshadowed by the dramatic ending.

The Pirates took the lead once again in the seventh thanks to some fantastic baserunning by Jose Tabata. Jose led off with an infield hit, then moved to second on Clint Barmes‘ sac-bunt. Reds 2B Brandon Phillips–much to announcer Greg Brown’s delight, I’m sure–seemed a little too satisfied with himself after recording the out, and turned his back to Tabata, so Jose took off for third and made it (barely). Michael McKenry then knocked him in with a sac-fly.

The Bucco bullpen continued its great work, as Juan Cruz and Tony Watson combined for a scoreless seventh (capped by a great strikeout of Joey Votto by Watson). Jason Grilli pitched yet another dominant eighth inning, and all seemed well with Joel Hanrahan taking the hill in the 9th with a one-run lead.

Not so much. Ludwick, AGAIN, blasted Hammer’s first pitch into the second deck to tie the game. The former Pirates trend here is getting a little out of hand…

Ryan Ludwick with as many homers in tonight’s game as he did in 133 AB for the Pirates last year.

— Jim Rosati (@northsidenotch) June 8, 2012

To make matters worse (seemingly), the Reds sent out Aroldis Chapman for the top of the tenth. Chapman hadn’t allowed an earned run all year and looked as dominant as I’ve ever seen a pitcher when he blew away the Bucs on Wednesday night. He hadn’t even allowed a HIT in over half a month, and hadn’t allowed two consecutive hits since last August. To boot, he was facing the bottom of the Bucs’ order. I mean, Barmes and McKenry vs. this guy? Come on.

Well, they play the game for a reason. Barmes had an awesome at bat and finished it off with a booming double to center. Then the Fort squared to bunt…bad idea against a guy who throws 100 MPH. Someone quickly realized that and called it off after one try, and it was a good thing they did, because he pounded a double to right-center to score Barmes. The back to back doubles that gave Chapman his first earned run were both hit by guys batting under .200.

It wasn’t over yet, though. The Pirates only had struggling Chris Resop and Doug Slaten left in the pen, and Slaten pitched three innings on Wednesday. Oh, and the middle of the Reds’ order was up. Resop came on for the save and gave up a leadoff double to Votto…not a good start. But the righty was able to bear down and get a groundout, pop-out, and strikeout. Votto didn’t even move to third.

Amazing team effort tonight. This was a really good game – the Bucs went ahead, the Reds tied it, repeat. It really did feel like a matchup of the two top teams in the division, and because they were able to come out on top, the Bucs took the series and got back to within 2 of first place.

News and notes:

  • Jeff Karstens was removed from his rehab start in AAA tonight with a groin injury.
  • The Pirates traded minor league catcher Kris Watts to the Nats for cash considerations.
  • The Royals are coming to town weekend. PNC better be rocking.

Pirates 5, Reds 4 / Box / 2012 Record: 29-27 / Next: Friday, vs. Royals, 7:05

MVP: Hughes (+.254) / LVP: Correia (-.360) / Key play: Ludwick’s second HR

©2012 Raise the Jolly Roger. All Rights Reserved.

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