If you watched the first two innings of this game and felt like it would be a continuation of last night’s game, I wouldn’t hold it against you. The Pirates went down 1-2-3 in the first, then Erik Bedard gave up three doubles in the bottom of the inning. The Pirates only managed to draw one walk in the top of the second, then the defense fell apart behind Bedard in the bottom of the second. Clint Barmes started the inning off by making an error on a Tyler Green groundball. Bedard managed to get Greene picked off of first base, but Garrett Jones’s weird inability to throw the ball from first to second with a runner on the bases prevented an out from actually being recorded. After Bedard recorded a strikeout, Jake Westbrook blooped a single between Andrew McCutchen and Neil Walker that the radio broadcast made it sound like had no business falling. After Bedard got another strikeout, Westbrook stole second because no one covered the base. Then Bedard walked Jon Jay, before finally escaping the jam somehow unscathed on a Matt Holliday groundout.
It seemed like the damage was done, though; Bedard needed 30 pitches to get a scoreless second and he’d thrown 26 in the first. I was only listening on the radio, but it sounded to me like he and Mike McKenry had a pretty frustrated exchange on the mound towards the end of the second. With Bedard’s pitch cap generally going to be set around 100 pitches, it seemed like it was going to be a short outing. The defense seemed lackadaisical behind him. Even Greg Brown and Bob Walk were sniping at each other in the radio booth over Walk’s failure to use the “cough” button, which Walk claimed wasn’t his fault and clearly drove Brown nuts.
Getting out of that second inning mess turned out to be the game’s turning point. Bedard got a David Freese groundout to start the third, then ended the inning with two strikeouts. In the fourth, Clint Barmes doubled home Pedro Alvarez to get the Pirates to within a run. Bedard struck out the side in the bottom of the inning, then opened the fifth with two more strikeouts to run his total to seven in a row and 11 on the afternoon. He got into a bit of trouble in the fifth, but got out of the inning and wrapped up the day with a 5 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 11 K line that was just fine given the way the afternoon started.
The top of the sixth is where things changed for good. After Neil Walker lead the inning off with a single, Pedro Alvarez worked the count full and when Jake Westbrook left the 3-2 sinker out over the plate just a little bit, he drilled a laser home run to center field to put the Pirates ahead. When Pedro’s slumping, the only way he hits home runs is to turn on meatballs and crush them over the right field fence. Here, he reached out and got a 92-mph sinker and hit it out the way it game in. It was a great swing in a huge situation, and it more or less won this game for the Pirates today.
Of course, the reason it won the game was because of some solid work by the bullpen. With Bedard at 104 pitches through 5 innings, he was done for the afternoon. Jared Hughes cruised through an easy scoreless sixth, Juan Cruz made it through the seventh despite giving up a single and two walks, Jason Grilli had a 1-2-3 eighth with a couple of strikeouts, and Joel Hanrahan had a bit of trouble in the ninth, though not really enough to put what had been a 6-2 lead in doubt. The team ended up with a whopping 17 strikeouts today, which is a modern franchise nine-inning record.
Early on in this game, the Pirates were really lucky to only be down 2-0. They pulled themselves together, though, and took advantage of the door that the Cardinals left open, and ended up salvaging a win from a series that was in danger of going really badly for him. That puts them at 11-14 with a nine-game homestand coming up.