When Jordy Mercer singled home Starling Marte after Marte's leadoff triple in the bottom of the fifth inning, I could only think one thing: "It's time for Andrew McCutchen to hit a ball over the fence and bury this game." With the bullpen using four relievers in game one and the uncertainty that any Brandon Cumpton start brings to the table, what I wanted to see was the Pirates step on the Cardinals and turn the second part of this double-header into a laugher.
That was pretty much exactly what happened, both literally and figuratively. Andrew McCutchen hit a home run off of Matt Holliday's glove two pitches after Jordy Mercer's single, then misplayed another flyball to the fence into a Josh Harrison triple in the sixth. The Pirates put two more runs up in the seventh for good measure, with Gaby Sanchez doubling home Andrew McCutchen and Tony Sanchez hitting a sac fly for his first big league RBI to bring Gaby Sanchez home. The last three innings of the game was pretty much all laughs and good feelings because the outcome was clear just about the second that McCutchen's fly ball glanced off of Holliday's glove and into the bleachers.
The Pirates are 64-42. They have a 1 1/2 game lead over the Cardinals in the NL Central. They have a ten game lead on the field for a playoff spot. They have the best record in all of Major League Baseball on the last day of July.
I don't have a crystal ball and so I can't tell you what the last 56 games of this season have in store, but what I can tell you is this: this feels real. Not in a, "The Pirates third-order winning percentage is THIS and their playoff odds are THIS and so put your talk about the collapse in your hat and keep it there for two more weeks" kind of way, but in a, "Holy crap, the team with the best record in the baseball just showed up at PNC Park and is getting blown off of the field by the Pirates and it's practically August and the Pirates have the best record in baseball and are playing as well now as they have been at any point in this season and oh-my-goodness-this-is-something-that's-actually-happening" kind of way.
I don't know what else to say. I'm a little bit speechless right now, in a good way. Rest up, because the trade deadline is tomorrow and because there are still two games against the Cardinals before this series even ends. This baseball season has been amazing and unexpected and fun, but it's also long. Remember that we're still at a point where all that a great win does is ensure that tomorrow's game is more important than the one that just ended.
But for now, don't forget to enjoy these two wins for just a little bit longer.