And on the 22nd day, there was offense.
Not that you need a reminder of this sort of thing, but before tonight the Pirates hadn’t scored more than five runs in any game all season. The Pirates haven’t scored nine runs in a game since September 26th, 2011. The Pirates haven’t won a baseball game by six runs or more since August 27th, 2011. Not only have the Pirates had trouble scoring this year, they’ve had trouble scoring ever since “the collapse” last year.
The Pirates’ first big offensive outburst of the year started off slowly. James McDonald gave up a two run homer in the bottom of the first inning to give the Braves a 2-0 lead and the Pirates didn’t score once on their first trip through the lineup. The Pirates managed to even things up in the second thanks to a string of hits (including a Jose Tabata double following a Rod Barajas walk, which was as hilarious as it sounds), but things broke open in the fourth when Pedro Alvarez hammered a high fastball from Mike Minor into the right field stands (a fastball! for a home run! against a lefty!). Yamaico Navarro followed up with his first Pirate homer — another two run shot — in the sixth and in the seventh the Bucs used some more hits and bad Braves defense to run the total to nine.
Honestly, though, I think James McDonald’s performance might’ve been more important than the offense. After giving up Freeman’s homer in the first, he flat-out shut down Braves. He made it 7 2/3 innings, striking out a career-best ten hitters while walking just two, allowing three runs on seven hits. Before the game I expressed some reserves about how many strikes he threw in his last start against Colorado, but tonight he threw 72 strikes in 114 pitches. He’s finished the seventh inning in two straight starts now, and there was no reason to think that he was wearing down tonight. Four of the last five outs he recorded were by strikeout.
Offense, a great start from James McDonald, and an six-run win; this was far and away the most complete Pirate victory of the season.