Game 37: Cardinals 6 Pirates 5

It’s hard to say that the first Sunday Night Baseball game in the history of PNC Park was a bad loss for the Pirates, since the Pirates spent all night playing catch-up and since the Pirates won six of the first eight games in the homestand before Sunday night’s game. The way the whole game unfolded was awfully frustrating, though, and given that the Pirates had a 12-20 record six days ago, they’re still at a point in the season when it’s helpful to them to win every game than they can conceivably get their hands on. They certainly could have gotten their hands on this one.

If I may briefly list the frustrations from last night, there was of course stranding Andrew McCutchen, the tying run, at third base when he got their with no outs in the bottom of the ninth. In fact, the Pirates managed to score once and load the bases up before recording an out against Trevor Rosenthal. The outs were frustrating, too: Jose Tabata drew a four-pitch walk against Rosenthal to load the bases with no outs, then Ike Davis popped the first pitch he saw up for the first out of the inning. Jordy Mercer then took two balls to start his at-bat, fouled off the 2-0 pitch, and hit the 2-1 pitch into the game-ending double play. The lack of patience with a struggling Rosenthal and the game on the line was maddening.

The reason the Pirates needed two runs to tie and three to win was also maddening. After the Pirates scratched and clawed their way to within a run after being down 4-0 before even coming to the plate, Bryan Morris left a two-out, 1-2 cutter way up in the zone to the light-hitting Peter Bourjos, who slapped it into the outfield for an RBI single. Two pitches later, he uncorked a wild pitch that brought a second run home. The bullpen was so good for the entire series against the Cards, but the Pirates asked an awful lot from them. As it turned out, one ugly inning from the bullpen was enough to cost them the sweep.

And if we’re working in reverse chronology, the 4-0 lead was frustrating too. On the third batter of the game, Pedro Alvarez went against his better judgment and tried to throw Jhonny Peralta out on a force place at second instead of getting Matt Holliday at first on a routine play, he threw the ball away, and that error ended up being the key to the open floodgates in the first. Charlie Morton obviously didn’t help things; he gave up four singles after the error that made a mountain out of what could’ve been a molehill. Still, a lot of it all stemmed out of the error.

And, of course, listing all of these things doesn’t even mention the bases-loaded fastball that Alvarez jumped on in the bottom of the third inning and drove about 390 feet to the warning track in center field. If Alvarez had gotten just a bit more of that ball, the whole game changes.

Basically, the Pirates spent the whole game fighting both the Cardinals and themselves and were still in position to win the game (despite being down a run, their win expectancy was 71.4% after the walk to load the bases against Barmes) in the bottom of the ninth, but couldn’t quite do it.

Anyway, 6-3 is definitely what the Pirates needed from this homestand; it gets them closer to .500, it closed the gap with the Brewers some, it brought the Pirates back into the NL Central back with the Reds and Cardinals, and it gave some badly needed affirmation to the notion that the Pirates shouldn’t be a 100-loss team this year.

That 6-3 record was like a bare minimum requirement to keep some hope alive for this season, though. There’s still plenty of work to be done just to get back into the NL Central race, and the series in Miller Park this week is a pretty huge one as far as mid-May series go. What’s frustrating today is that while 6-3 is fine for this week, it really could’ve been 8-1.

Image credit: torne, Flickr

Pat Lackey

About Pat Lackey

In 2005, I started a WHYGAVS instead of working on organic chemistry homework. Many years later, I've written about baseball and the Pirates for a number of sites all across the internet, but WHYGAVS is still my home. I still haven't finished that O-Chem homework, though.