Originally posted on Raise the Jolly Roger!  |  Last updated 7/21/13
Annnnd…EXHALE!  The Pirates managed to navigate their way through another very tense contest in Cincinnati by FINALLY coming up with some big hits and getting some big outs late. The Bucs still lost the series, but avoided a sweep – losing just one game in the standings to the Reds feels a lot better than losing three. Plus, it’s good to have that first post-all-star-break win taken care of. Jeff Locke was excellent yet again, delivering the big-time start that the Bucs had been looking for this weekend. His amazing ability to somehow limit base hits was on display yet again…he allowed a leadoff infield single and that was it. He struck out six and had very little trouble for five of his six innings. His only issue was some wildness, which hurt him in the 5th. Two walks to the #7 and #8 hitters, then a sac bunt and a wild pitch led to a run, tying the game. That was definitely an ugly sequence, but other than that Locke’s outing was terrific. Garrett Jones blasted a solo shot in the second (if he’s finally heating up, it would be enormous) to put the Pirates ahead, and for a while it seemed like Locke might make that hold up. Once the Reds tied it, though, things didn’t look good because the offense was having its usual RISP problems (and overall problems). But finally, in the seventh inning when Homer Bailey seemed to be running out of gas (well over 100 pitches), Michael McKenry hit a big double and Jordy Mercer snuck a ground ball up the middle to snap the 0 for 29 RISP streak. Jose Tabata later singled Mercer home for a big insurance run. Eventually, the Bucs are going to get some hits in these spots, and thank goodness a few finally came today. Bryan Morris and Justin Wilson navigated through a carefully managed seventh inning by Clint Hurdle (he used three pitchers, lifting Tony Watson after a leadoff walk). That inning was much less adventurous than Mark Melancon‘s eighth, in which he seemed to lose his incredible control. Mark, who had only walked four batters all year entering Sunday, put the leadoff man on with four pitches and then walked another after allowing a single. Bases loaded, no outs, Joey Votto up. Uh oh. That’s when the awesome Melancon returned, though, and he got Votto to bounce into a DP and retired Brandon Phillips. The Reds got a run, but it was still a remarkable escape act. Jason Grilli earned a pretty clean save in the ninth to finish the job. It’s just another win, of course, but this one felt pretty big. Blowing a lead after finally breaking through with some big hits would have been pretty tough to swallow. Instead, the Pirates are still in decent position, having only fallen one game this weekend, and now they head to Washington with a little momentum to take on a struggling Nats club. Pirates 3, Reds 2 / Box / 2013 Record: 57-39 / Next: Monday, at Nationals, 7:05 Source: FanGraphs  
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