Let’s begin with the elephant in the room, shall we?
I have my own opinions about whether the Pirates should be playing Jung Ho Kang right now, but I am aware that my opinions are not terribly relevant. One of the reasons, though, that I’m troubled by allowing athletes to play in situations like this one, is that it allows everyone watching to pretend like things are normal, and to minimize the situation to themselves should they so choose. This situation is not normal, because Kang is being accused of and investigated for committing a sexual assault. I would rather watch the Pirates lose a baseball game than to see them win one with a player that’s done what Kang’s been accused of doing, and while I obviously don’t know whether or not Kang is guilty, that fact is inescapably on my mind right now. We (meaning the fans) like to use sports to escape the real world, but the athletes we watch are painfully real and the people that their actions off the field affect are real people, as well. Avoiding thinking about the accusations that Kang is facing because I’d rather enjoy a baseball game very literally ignores the reality of this humanity, and I think ignoring that reality is dangerous.
Kang’s hit, ultimately, was the final drop in the bucket in the steady rain of the Pirates’ most impressive comeback of their mind-bending six-game comeback win streak. I don’t mean to say that any comeback win is bad, but in those first five comebacks, Pirate starters got three wins and Steven Brault likely would’ve gotten a win last night had he not been on a Major League Debut Restricted Pitch Count. After the Cardinals took a 5-1 lead in the bottom of the fourth inning, the Pirates felt in much more danger of losing than they’d been at any point in this now-seven game winning streak.
And then, they chipped away. Sean Rodriguez homered in the fifth, then Josh Harrison and Rodriguez followed walks by Andrew McCutchen and Kang with singles, which cut the lead to 5-4. The Pirates left Harrison on third base with one out without scoring him and that seemed like a potential point of frustration, but they got right back to work in the seventh with a David Freese walk, a McCutchen single, and Kang’s double. Kang then scored when Josh Harrison reached on an Aledmys Diaz error, and that gives us the final margin of 7-5.
As has become routine in this current hot stretch of baseball, the Pirate bullpen was excellent tonight. Jared Hughes got in on the action for the first time since the bullpen became bullet proof, tossing a not-uneventuful-but-at-least-scoreless fifth inning after Locke’s short start. AJ Schugel, Neftali Feliz, Tony Watson, and Mark Melancon followed him up with four excellent innings of their own, with Schugel preserving the one-run deficit, and Feliz, Watson, and Melancon holding the two-run lead.
The Pirates have won seven in a row and ten of 12. This win moves them ahead of the Cardinals in the standings for the first time since the Gerrit Cole/Francisco Cervelli injury disaster night. The Cubs have fallen apart lately, and the Pirate are suddenly closer to them (8 1/2 games) than they have been since June 2nd.
And Tyler Glasnow debuts tomorrow.
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