Originally written on Raise the Jolly Roger!  |  Last updated 4/15/13
WOW. We’ve got an early candidate for the best win of the season. The Pirates worked their way out of a 5-0 hole in dramatic fashion on Sunday afternoon to complete a sweep the hated Cincinnati Reds. That is awesome. Phil Irwin‘s major league debut didn’t go too well. He was visibly nervous and rattled in the first two innings, struggling with his control (which he almost never did in the minors). The Reds made him pay with several hits and walks, jumping out to a quick 4-0 lead.  Irwin settled down after that and made it through 4.2 innings, allowing one more run in the fifth. It was nice to see him bounce back and probably take something positive away from the outing, but all in all it was a rough start for the righty. Today marked the first time in his pro career (all levels of the minors included) that he walked four batters in a game. The early hole looked to be too much for the Pirates to handle against Reds starter Mat Latos, who cruised through five shutout innings to start the game. Latos dominated the Pirates several times in 2012 and today looked to be more of the same. As each nondescript inning passed, the game felt more and more like a disappointing Sunday where the Bucs seemed to mail it in and be satisfied with taking the series. A tough Reds bullpen loomed and Latos was showing no signs of any trouble. Michael McKenry finally ended that in the seventh inning when he led off with a monster solo shot to center. It was only a solo shot to make it 5-1, but it ended up being the spark to an incredible rally. After an out, Starling Marte extended his hit streak to 8 with a single. Like Fort’s homer, it didn’t seem like much – just a nice moment and a footnote in a routine loss…but then Travis Snider stepped up and drilled one to the top of the Clemente Wall. A fan reached out over the railing before it cleared (and it would’ve cleared the railing if the fan hadn’t touched it), but since he reached over the umps called it a double on the field and upheld the call after review. Most figured that it was going to be ruled a homer to cut the lead to 5-3. It wasn’t, but Andrew McCutchen stepped right up and made it irrelevant by doubling Snider home. 5-3. Gaby Sanchez pinch hit for Garrett Jones when the Reds brought in a lefty, and it worked out perfectly as Gaby singled home Cutch to make it 5-4. All of a sudden, one run game. Jared Hughes couldn’t record a shutdown inning in the top of the eighth, though, and that seemed to kill most of the hope in the air. The lead was back to two and the Reds had their feared duo of Jonathan Broxton and Aroldis Chapman raring to go. Luckily for the Bucs, neither had pitched in a week because Dusty Baker is just as bad at managing his bullpen as Clint Hurdle. Broxton clearly had absolutely nothing in the eighth inning, and the Pirates just ambushed him. Pedro drew a walk and McKenry delivered another one of those magical Fort moments with a blast to left. (You’ve surely seen the highlight now, but check out Greg Brown’s radio call – it’s great.) Tie game, but the Bucs weren’t done. After an out, Jose Tabata walked and Starling Marte stepped up. Before extending his hit streak in the previous AB, Marte had been having a rough game (two K’s and an error to cost the Bucs a run). Forget about it. He demolished a hanging slider into the rotunda (juuuuuust barely inside the foul pole) for the go-ahead blast. Awesome moment for a kid who has been absolutely stellar so far this year. Broxton’s rough day still wasn’t done. Hurdle wanted to preserve his bench for some reason and sent Jonathan Sanchez up to pinch hit, and Broxton walked him. Sanchez went from first to third on a Cutch single and then scored on a Gaby Sanchez sac fly. The Reds then brought in the fireballer Chapman, and Neil Walker singled off him to give the Bucs their tenth run. Incredible rally. Absolutely incredible. Mark Melancon yielded his first run as a Buc when Joey Votto homered off him in the ninth, but he closed things out with no problem after that. What looked like a depressing Sunday afternoon just an hour or so ago turned in to a celebration of brooms and Jolly Roger flags. Yes, it’s early, but I maintain that this was a huge series and sweeping it (not just winning it) is a statement performance. Notes: Jeanmar Gomez was the unsing hero of the game. Once Irwin came out it seemed like he was just out there to eat up innings, but he posted zeroes for 2.1 innings, setting the stage for the comeback. I still don’t really see much in Jeanmar as I watch him pitch, but he’s done the job so far with just one earned run in seven innings this season. Hughes got the win despite allowing what seemed like a crucial run at the time in his only inning. Snider also doubled in the first, but was thrown out at third in one of the most boneheaded stolen base attempts you’ll ever see. Still, he’s been hitting the ball much better of late. The Bucs are back to .500 and are in second place, one back of the Cardinals (who come to PNC this week). SERIES WRAPUP Huge. The Bucs always seem to struggle to complete sweeps, and today they flipped the script after a dismal performance early on. The Reds are reeling a bit, but sweeping them out of town still feels absolutely wonderful. The really awesome thing to me is that the Bucs were able to steal wins with Jeff Locke and Phil Irwin going up against the Reds’ two best pitchers. After a rough 5-1 start, the Pirates have now gone 5-1 over the past week to even their record. That’s not too notable at first, but I’ll gladly take it considering the competition (all contenders after the opening series vs the Cubs). The next week will be just as tough with the Cardinals and Braves in town, but the great news is that the Bucs are riding some momentum. Pirates 10, Reds 7 / Box / 2013 Record: 6-6 / Next: Monday, vs Cardinals, 7:05 Source: FanGraphs
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