Originally written on Raise the Jolly Roger!  |  Last updated 10/30/14
The Pirates came back to steal another victory from the Phillies on Thursday afternoon, clinching a big series win. The Bucs put their late-inning resolve on display yet again and won a crucial battle of bullpens for the second game in a row. James McDonald looked very sharp to open the game, but he faltered a bit and fell victim to the usual problem for Pirates starters: failing to go deep in to the game. After a great first few innings, J-Mac allowed a run in the fourth on a walk, wild pitch, and double. He posted a zero in the fifth but the Phillies hit some balls hard. In the sixth, he couldn’t record an out. As a result, James’ line was disappointing (5 innings, 3 runs) but he did show some more improved stuff (good velocity and better command) early in the game, which was encouraging. Cliff Lee was able to out-do James in the early going, but Gaby Sanchez destroyed a solo bomb off him in the sixth to tie the game at one. Once the Phils took the lead in the bottom of the inning, the Bucs rallied right back. A Marte walk and McCutchen 2-out single set the stage for Sanchez again, and he delivered with an RBI single. Phils manager Charlie Manuel then came out to remove Lee from the game, but Lee convinced his manager to let him stay in. Mistake. The Fort ripped an 0-2 single up the middle to tie it up. The Pirates continued the attack in the next inning, once Lee was indeed removed from the game. Clint Barmes was HBP with 1 out and consecutive singles by Marte and Snider loaded the bases for PH Garrett Jones, who got ahead in the count and absolutely hammered a meatball off the RF fence for a 2-run double. Sanchez capped off his strong day with a sac-fly (an incredibly shallow sac fly – it was Marte on third) to add another run. The Bucco Bullpen (which is apparently taking on the nickname “Shark Tank”) had to cover four innings without its two leaders Mark Melancon and Jason Grilli, since both had been used for two consecutive days. Justin Wilson and Tony Watson made things pretty simple in their absence – each tossed two strong innings. Wilson notched the win and Watson picked up his first career save. The Shark Tank continues to impress. Notes: Brandon Inge started at second base and went 1-for-4. He has a hit in all three of his games so far and the Bucs are 3-0 with him on the team. INGESANITY! Sanchez brought his average up to .278 and made a very nice catch at first base. He’s got three homers on the year. Meanwhile, Jones was available for the biggest PH spot of the game, where he was properly deployed against a righty and came up huge. This platoon thing is working out pretty darn well so far. James McDonald was 2-for-2. Pedro Alvarez had two hits off the lefty Lee, extending his hit streak to seven games. The Pirates beat the Phillies three times in a row, on days when Cole Hamels, Roy Halladay, and Cliff Lee started for the Phils. That trio has pitched back-to-back-to-back 18 times and this was the first time the Phils lost all three games.  Ironically, the Pirates did all that but lost the first game – when AJ Burnett went up against a kid making his MLB debut. Baseball is weird. SERIES WRAPUP It feels awesome to see the Bucs come out of Philly with three wins. All three were close wins, which doesn’t exactly mean the Bucs were dominant…but it sure was exciting. The team still has its issues, but the Pirates have continued to play very well overall ever since the first week of the year – they’ve won 12 of 16. Again, there are things that aren’t sustainable about this stretch (such as the starters failing to work deep in to games, causing stress on the bullpen) but there’s also room to improve. Andrew McCutchen isn’t hitting the ball well at all. Neil Walker hasn’t done much either. Jonathan Sanchez will be out of the rotation after two more starts. Of course we’ve seen the Pirates get off to good starts before and falter, and of course it’s waaaaayyyyyy too early to know if that’ll happen again or not, but they’ve actually started off far better than they did last year–when they didn’t crack four games over .500 until June. There’s lots to like about the Bucs right now, but again – the schedule remains tough. Next up: trips to St. Louis and Milwaukee. Pirates 6, Phillies 4 / Box / 2013 Record: 13-9 / Next: Friday, at Cardinals, 8:15 Source: FanGraphs
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