On some nights, everything just goes right. Before this one even started, it was easy to look at the matchup and say that between James McDonald starting for the Bucs and Liam Hendricks going for the Twins that it should be a good night for the Pirates. That McDonald would give them (yet another) solid start and that the recently revitalized offense would be able to throw some runs up against Hendricks and that it should be a pretty easy win.
The Pirates started in on Hendricks early, with a first inning run thanks to an Andrew McCutchen triple and a Garrett Jones single. In the second, Neil Walker hit a two-out groundball to shortstop Brian Dozier. Instead of an easy inning-ending force play at second, Dozier bobbled the ball, Alex Presley beat the throw to second, and McCutchen came back to the plate with the bases loaded. McCutchen unloaded on a Hendricks fastball, hitting a laser-shot double into the left-center gap to clear the bases.
That would’ve been enough for McDonald, but the offense decided at that point to skip the formalities of stringing hits together and just start unloading with home runs. Rod Barajas hit a two-run homer in the sixth, Garrett Jones hit a two-run homer of his own in the seventh, and then just for good measure Pedro Alvarez hit an absolute bomb off of the top corner of the grandstand in right center. Finaly tally? Nine runs again.
On the other side of things, James McDonald flat out cruised tonight. The guy that could hardly ever even make it to the seventh inning last year tossed his first career game in a tidy 120 pitches, striking out five and walking none. The only run the Twins got was on a Ryan Doumit single in the fourth. Other than that, the Twins never really even threatened.
Over the last few weeks, the Pirates have suddenly had a preponderance of “Now THAT’S how you win a baseball game” games. I said earlier this year that the Pirates were playing some of my least favorite baseball of the last 20 years. Obviously, that’s not true anymore.