When you suspect that the baseball team that you’re watching is good but you don’t have quite enough evidence to support that thesis, you let yourself go through a bargaining phase that ignores certain pieces of evidence with the understanding that you will come back to when you better understand said team. When the Pirates ripped through the Dodgers, Mariners, A’s, and Cardinals with a run that culminated in six straight comeback wins, that unspoken bargain was that the Pirate bullpen could not literally be invincible for the rest of the year, even if they continued to be much-improved over the early-season version of the Pirate bullpen.
The Pirate bullpen was not invincible, or even particularly good tonight. David Freese and Sean Rodriguez finally broke Jake Arreita’s spell on the Pirates with second inning homers that gave the Pirates a 3-0 lead, but when Francisco Liriano got into trouble in the sixth inning, Juan Nicasio was unable to get him out it, surrendering a two-run homer to Miguel Monero that tied the game at three. Neftali Feliz came in in the seventh and served up a homer to Anthony Rizzo, and suddenly that early Pirate lead was a 4-3 deficit.
The Pirates responded with an all-hands on deck rally that bailed out the bullpen that’s helped put them back into the NL playoff picture. With Arrieta still on the mound in the bottom of the seventh, Adam Frazier drew a walk and Josh Bell singled him to third in his first big league at-bat. Jaso singled Frazier home to tie the game and chase Arrieta, then Gregory Polanco reached on an error that put the Pirates ahead (and drove him from the game, trying to run out the slow infield bounder on his sore leg). Andrew McCutchen singled in the Pirates’ sixth run, and Starling Marte drove in the seventh with a fielder’s choice. The Pirates added an eighth in the eighth, and that was that.
I’m sticking with the one-game-at-a-time mantra that I professed before the game; beating Arrieta is nice, coming back even when the bullpen isn’t at its best is nice, and 11 wins in 14 games is particularly nice. The Pirates are not where they need to be yet, but they only way they get there is with wins like these.
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