Coming into this series with the Phillies, we all knew that it was downright likely that the Pirates would struggle to score runs against Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee, but when the Bucs didn’t score for the first 14 innings of the 2012 season, it was easy to feel the frustrations start to boil over. You could see the Pirate fans on twitter grumbling and you could feel the restlessness of the crowd through the camera. Halladay and Lee are good, sure, but the Pirates offense looked downright bad.
It didn’t necessarily look that much better in innings 6-10 tonight, but the Bucs were good enough to somehow scrape out two runs and those two runs were all that the team needed to bring home their first win in 2012. The first run scored awfully high on the unlikely meter. Yamaico Navarro opened his Pirate career by pinch-hitting for Jeff Karstens and drawing a walk from Cliff Lee, a guy that only walked 18 hitters total in 2010. Navarro moved to second on a Jose Tabata single and third on an Alex Presley ground out, then scored when Lee threw a wild pitch (Lee’s wild pitch total in 2011: 0) and missed Carlos Ruiz’s otherwise-good-enough throw back to him. That’s how the Pirates got on the scoreboard in 2012.
That one run was good enough to get the Pirates to the tenth inning because the Pirates’ pitching staff has been just as excellent as the Phillies’ has through two games. Jeff Karstens got into trouble in the first and gave up a run, but settled down and cruised through six innings. After giving up three singles in the first, he only allowed two more hits with what’s now recognizable as his usual mix of fastballs and sinkers, offset by his slooooow curveball. The bullpen was excellent as well, with Tony Watson and Jason Grilli having easy innings and Joel Hanrahan and Juan Cruz getting themselves into a bit of trouble and then escaping with brute strikeout force.
Once Lee came out, the Pirates’ bats did start to come alive a bit. Josh Harrison doubled in the eighth and Jose Tabata follwed with a line drive that I was sure was going to score him, but it hung up enough to make it a routine play for Hunter Pence. Andrew McCutchen singled and stole second in the ninth, but ended up stranded there. The Bucs finally broke through in the tenth when Rod Barajas bombed a double off of the top of the fence in left center center (just a few inches from being a home run; after two games PNC has robbed both Barmes and Barajas of homers). Barajas is so incredibly slow that pinch-running Mike McKenry for him was a good idea; McKenry went to third on a Barmes bunt and scored when Alex Presley hit a slow grounder to Jimmy Rollins and just beat the throw to first. As it turns out, a walkoff infield single is probably one of the more intense, exciting plays in baseball.
So here we are through two games. The Pirates have looked terrible at the plate, but they’ve gotten two very good starts and some excellent bullpen work and they managed to split the games started by Halladay and Lee. It’s awfully hard to complain about that.