The Pirates worked their late inning magic yet again and delivered another comeback win on Saturday night in St. Louis. A.J. Burnett made a solid start, the offense woke up in the seventh inning, and the bullpen got the job done as usual.
Burnett – still your NL strikeout leader – gave up a quick run and danced around some additional trouble in the following innings, but he was able to post a quality start…something that has become pretty rare for the Bucs these days. It took him 111 pitches, but AJ made it through six. He yielded a second run in the sixth inning but did pretty well to limit the damage. It wasn’t a dominant performance, but he gave the Pirates a steady outing they desperately needed.
Jake Westbrook, meanwhile, posted fairly easy zeroes for six innings – somewhat of a surprise because the Pirates always seem to hit him well. They got six hits off him, but all were singles and he didn’t walk anyone. Mike Matheny surprisingly lifted Westbrook after six despite a pitch count of just 91, and that proved to be a mistake that helped the Pirates out quite a bit. Pedro Alvarez singled and Russell Martin homered off Joe Kelly to begin the seventh, and just like that Westbrook’s strong work had been nullified.
The Bucs continued to rally in the seventh (so Martin’s homer wasn’t a rally killer, Bob Walk!) as Clint Barmes singled and Starling Marte walked with one out. Matheny brought in fireballer Trevor Rosenthal, who seemed to have no idea where he was throwing his upper-90′s heat. Jose Tabata took a painful HBP and Andrew McCutchen walked to bring in a run, giving the Bucs the lead. They added another run with a Garrett Jones groundout.
Tony Watson, Mark Melancon, and Jason Grilli took care of business in the 7th, 8th, and 9th. Watson had the most impressive inning of the three. Grilli finally allowed his first run, but he still notched a save and the bullpen racked up another impressive outing.
There was a lot of buzz at the end of the game focused on ROOT Sports. The Pens game started at 7:37 (the Bucs started at 4:15), leaving a slim possibility of the games overlapping. That’s exactly what happened, as the Pirates’ late inning burst slowed the game down to the point that they were still batting in the top of the ninth, up three, when it came time to drop the puck. ROOT dumped the Pirates game and showed the Pens, causing all kinds of fury on Twitter. The Penguins get way better ratings than the Pirates, obviously, and Pens broadcasts have (rightfully) been shown whenever the two teams start games around the same time. This was a different situation, though. The Pirates were in the ninth inning of a fairly close game. The Penguins were about to face off in a game that meant nothing in terms of standings and playoff positioning. Had ROOT kept the Pirates on, they would have missed twenty minutes of the Pens game. It just seemed really bizzare for them to cut out of the end of a game — I don’t recall that ever happening in any sports broadcast I’ve watched. It’s no shock that the Pens carry much more TV clout than the Bucs, but the gap is apparently even bigger than I thought.
The Pirates lead the NL Wild Card race and are a half game back of the 1st-place Cards.
Clint Hurdle was working with an extremely short bench (Travis Snider was out with tightness in his side – precautionary – and Neil Walker is out about a week with stitches), so he used TWO starting pitchers as pinch hitters. James McDonald failed to get a bunt down and Wandy Rodriguez (!) singled.
Jonathan Sanchez was suspended six games and fined for hitting Allen Craig in Friday’s game. Obviously this isn’t a problem for the Pirates (and in fact I hope it means he’s off the team faster), but that seems like a pretty strange decision to me. You can only speculate as to whether or not it was intentional – again, Sanchez is extremely wild.
The Bucs scored four runs despite being hitless with RISP (0-for-4).
Jason Grilli’s ERA is still 0.00 when he is being shown by ROOT Sports.
Pirates 5, Cardinals 3 / Box / 2013 Record: 14-10 / Next: Sunday, vs. Cardinals, 2:15