Look, let’s not mince words. It’s time for Jason Grilli to stop being the Pirates’ closer. It’s past time for that, actually. In the past seven days, Grilli is the one who stoked the fire in last Friday’s near-collapse against Miami, he served up a home run to Todd Frazier that cost the Pirates Tuesday’s game, and he served up a game-tying home run to Devin Mesoraco in this one. He is completely and entirely unreliable in one-run games, and apparently the only people that were unaware of that this afternoon were Clint Hurdle and Grilli himself.
Actually, I take that back. Hurdle is almost certainly aware of it. This is how the Pirates tend to handle struggle veterans; remember that Wandy Rodriguez got two starts more than any Pirate would’ve given him, if only for him to prove to himself that it was time to go. Grilli’s been good to the Pirates up to this season, and it shouldn’t be surprising that the Pirates are being good to Grilli now that the end is drawing near. It’s time, though. The Pirates have an easy stretch in their schedule coming up, and they can’t afford to drop winnable games anymore, which means Grilli can’t be closing or pitching in high leverage situations. That’s just the truth of it.
With all that out of the way, and with Grilli cast aside from this recap, this was a pretty good game for the Pirates. Jeff Locke cruised through six innings, holding the Reds to two runs on two hits. For the second straight start, he was awfully efficient (83 pitches in 6 innings) and without the rain delay he probably had one or two more innings in him this afternoon. Tony Watson and Mark Melancon both did their bit to hold the lead, which was good to see after the hiccups in Miami. Jared Hughes continued his excellent work with two scoreless innings, and even Justin Wilson got back on track with a scoreless 12th to earn the win. Other than Grilli, there was plenty of good pitching news.
The offense was probably better than the four runs would indicate, too. They dinged Homer Bailey for nine hits in 5 2/3, the ended up drawing six total walks against the Reds’ pitching staff, and with maybe one more big hit, the Grilli meltdown doesn’t even have to happen. Actually, if not for Billy Hamilton’s highway robbery of Travis Snider in the ninth inning, this game surely only needs nine innings. Gregory Polanco had two more hits (that’s hits in nine straight to start his career) and I’m starting to wonder if he’s a cyborg. Really, this was the sort of game that you could watch as a Pirate fan and think, “Yeah, maybe this team can make something happen.” Except for the part with Grilli. Which is going to be resolved soon, I think.
The Pirates are 35-37, eight games behind the Brewers and 3 1/2 behind the Cardinals for the second wild card.