When the Pirates took a 4-0 lead in the top of the fifth inning, I thought that maybe they were going to coast to an easy win. That would've been a little bit of a relief after last night's nailbiter. Almost immediately, the Pirates started to let the Rangers back into the game. Francisco Liriano (who was good tonight without having his best stuff, which is nice to see given how binary he seems to be) gave up a run in the bottom of the fifth and only lasted through the sixth inning. After a Justin Wilson inning, Jason Grilli came out without his best stuff and put two of the four hitters he faced on base. Tony Watson cleaned up the mess, but not before giving up a run. The Pirates got an insurance run in the ninth, and it turned out that Mark Melancon needed it. Melancon gave up four hits (he'd only given up 46 in 63 1/3 innings before tonight) and two runs (seven, six earned before tonight) in his inning of work, but he managed to get Adrian Beltre to strike out with the tying run at third base and close out the Bucs' 83rd win. Given the high quality of his work this year, I suppose we'll allow him one bad outing.
There was plenty to like before the last couple of innings, though. Jordy Mercer and Andrew McCutchen continued their joint quest to send left-handed pitching into extinction tonight. Mercer had three of his four hits (and both doubles) off of starter Martin Perez, while McCutchen had a pair of hits and a pair of RBIs against Perez. Both of them had hits in the top of the ninth, too, with Mercer sending a bunt into no-man's land to send Neil Walker to second, then McCutchen drove Walker home for his third RBI of the night. I know I've said this once already, but with Marlon Byrd on the team and Hurdle more firmly committed to getting Neil Walker off of the field against lefties, the Pirates field a really nice lineup against southpaws now.
The Reds lost to the Cubs again tonight, so the Pirates have a two-game edge over them just two days after being tied with them for second. The Cardinals beat the Brewers, which means that the Bucs remain one game back in the Central. Two days ago, it felt like the Pirates were incapable of hitting or pitching well enough to win a baseball game. Now, they're a game away from a sweep of the Rangers. The last three weeks have been quite a roller coaster ride, but it should be apparent now that this Pirate team is not going to roll over at the first sign of adversity. One more win in Texas and the Bucs can head home to face the Cubs. Anything is still possible.