It's easy enough to sit here and say something like, "it's amazing what a difference a few days can make it baseball" because on Monday it seemed like a very real possibility that the 1-5 Pirates would start 2013 with a 5-20 record and on Friday night that seems a lot less likely with Bucs sitting at 4-6. If anything, though, Friday's 6-5 win over the Reds was an illustration of how much a baseball game can swing in just a few batters.
From the outset, the Pirates were all over Mike Leake. Starling Marte lead the game off with a hit, then stole second a pitch before Neil Walker drew a walk. Marte went to third on an Andrew McCutchen flyout, but ran into an out at the plate when Garrett Jones grounded the ball to Joey Votto (there was some discussion afterwards of whether Marte was preventing a double play by running into the out at the plate; I don't know if the Reds really could've turned two on the play because Votto was pulled way in and it looked to me like Neil Walker got a huge jump on the play and may have been able to beat the throw to second). The Pirates still managed to score a run when Russell Martin singled Walker home in the next at-bat. A Brandon Phillips homer got the Reds the run back, but in the second the Pirates strung together five singles (Snider, Barmes, Walker, McCutchen, and Jones) with a hit by pitch (Marte) to push four runs across and take a 5-1 lead.
AJ Burnett didn't really have his best stuff tonight, though, and so the Reds slowly crept back into the game. They got a run in the fourth and another run in the sixth to close the deficit to 5-3 before Burnett came out of the game. With Shin-Soo Choo and Joey Votto sandwiched around Chris Heisey to open the seventh, Tony Watson relieved Burnett. Watson didn't look great and he threw a bunch of pitches in getting Choo to ground out, walking Heisey, and getting Votto to fly out on because of a spectacular catch by Starling Marte on a dying line drive. I thought that would be it for Watson, but Hurdle left him out there to face Brandon Phillips and Phillips hit his second home run of the game just over the centerfield wall to tie the score at five.
At that point, it felt like the whole game had come apart at the seams. The Reds had battled all the way back and the back end of their bullpen is pretty phenomenal. Who wants to find themselves in the situation the Pirates found themselves in after the top of the seventh? Five minutes later, though, the whole game had turned on a dime. The Reds brought JJ Hoover out to relieve Leake in the seventh. Andrew McCutchen lead the inning off. He fouled off a pitch, took two pitches, then fouled off two more. Hoover went back to his curveball for the third time in the at-bat and while he didn't hang it, Devin Mesoraco wanted it on the outside part of the plate and Hoover didn't get it there. 'Cutch golfed the ball just over the elbow in left field to give the Pirates a 6-5 lead.
Suddenly, the Pirates were back ahead with Melancon and Grilli ready to go in the bullpen. Melancon mowed down the Reds in the eighth. Grilli got into a bit of trouble in the ninth when he put the tying run on second base by walking Joey Votto after what certainly looked like strike three one pitch earlier in the at-bat, but he got Phillips to strike out swinging for a pretty satisfying end-game.
After that terrible start, the Pirates have won three of four and scored at least five runs in all three wins. Tonight, the top four hitters in the lineup (Marte, Walker, McCutchen, and Jones) all had two hits apiece and they reached base a total of ten times (the eight hits, plus Walker's walk and Marte's HBP). That's how you score runs.