I suppose we could debate whether or not this game was exactly what the Pirates needed at this point in time, but the honest truth is that the Pirates really just need wins right now and this game represents their fourth win in seven games since Andrew McCutchen went down with his rib injury. Obviously there were some concerns about the offense when McCutchen went down, especially since Neil Walker is still injured. Two offensive explosions against the Marlins allayed those fears a bit, then five runs in three games against the Padres brought them all back. Now, the Pirates scored 11 runs against the Tigers, chased Justin Verlander faster than he’s ever been chased in his career (obviously his shoulder injury was a factor here, though we won’t know how much until later this week, probably), and stand alone in the National League’s first wild card position. What can I say? It’s a confusing time.
As has happened a few times already in this past week, the offense was mostly keyed by the players manning the outfield without Andrew McCutchen. Starling Marte delivered probably the biggest hit of the game with his first inning bases-loaded triple that gave the Pirates a 3-1 lead. Gregory Polanco only had one hit, but he drew two walks and scored twice. Travis Snider had three hits, including two home runs; he scored three times and drove in four runs. Josh Harrison added three hits and scored in the first inning, and Russell Martin and Ike Davis hit back-to-back homers in the bottom of the sixth, which was huge given that Jeff Locke’s struggles handed three runs back to the Tigers and made what looked like a Pirate laugher into something of a tense game.
Really, the only thing to complain about here would have to be Locke, who struggled with his control again (four walks in five innings) and failed to give the bullpen the night off that they needed after yesterday’s blowout loss. Really, the pitching staff as a whole was saved by two phenomenal throws from the outfield; Travis Snider threw Alex Avila out at home in the third inning, turning a sac fly into an inning-ending double play and Gregory Polanco threw Rajai Davis out at home after a Miguel Cabrera single in the eighth inning, stemming yet another potential Tiger rally. If you put those two runs on the board and keep the Tigers at the plate in the eighth inning, well, let’s not think about it. As it stands, you almost have to assume that Locke will be the pitcher that comes out of the rotation for Gerrit Cole, as his control has been backsliding lately and that makes him a dangerous pitcher to put on the mound.
As much as any of us might like to complain about the roster and the usage of the disabled list in the last week, the Pirate are 4-3 in their last seven, and only need one win against a depleted Tiger roster — their bullpen has thrown 21 innings in the last two games — to earn a split and keep that .500 record with McCutchen out intact a little bit longer. Maybe after this game, we should set our sights even higher than a split. Obviously this offense is capable of scoring runs when the offense is clicking, even without McCutchen and Walker in the lineup.