Once you’ve lost seven games in a row, you can’t win them all back at once. The only thing you can do on the eighth day is to ensure that you don’t lose an eighth game in a row. It’s a baby-step, for sure, but it’s a necessary baby step. I don’t know if the Pirates can dig out of the hole that they dug for themselves in this last week, but hey, this is one shovelful of dirt.
It’s pretty tempting to focus on the flukey and lucky aspects of this win for the Pirates; the Braves scored in the first inning and added an insurance run in the sixth, while the Pirates scored the tying run in the eighth on a wild pitch and the go-ahead run on a sac fly in the ninth that was set up by the Upton brothers’ failure to communicate on what should have been a routine Starling Marte flyout. So yeah, certainly, the Pirates got some breaks in the last two innings of this game that helped turn what looked like a certain loss into a win.
You don’t complain about lucky breaks after seven straight losses, though, and I think it’s easy to argue that Gerrit Cole’s strong start is easily the most important and most positive thing that could have happened to the Pirates tonight (particularly since they won). As far as I could tell, there were no ill-effects from Cole’s lat injury tonight. His velocity, which was a concern after his rehab starts, but he averaged 97 mph on 61 fastballs tonight, he topped out at 100, and he was still approaching triple digits on the gun right up to his last pitch of the night. He had a particularly impressive after allowing Evan Gattis’s lead-off triple in the second, as he put 12 hitters down in a row after that, striking out four of the 12. He faltered a bit in the sixth and the seventh (three of his four walks came in those two innings), but on the whole I’d say it was a really positive outing from one of the most important players to the Pirates down the stretch.
The Giants and Cardinals are both going to win tonight, so the Pirates won’t make up ground on anyone except for the Braves and the Brewers (who lost earlier today). Baby steps, though. Baby steps. The losing streak is dead. Let’s see what happens now.