Within the last week or so, I came across an article here or there about Jose Abreu. Seeing his name, I briefly thought about how I had wanted to see the Pirates more involved in the bidding for the Cuban star over the winter. Almost immediately, I realized that Gaby Sanchez and Ike Davis have more or less been good enough this year to render that desire moot. I’m not sure that they’re quite at Abreu level together, but they’ve been a pretty incredible tandem for the Pirates at first base in the last few weeks, and it no longer seems like the Pirates have a “first base problem.”
Today, it turned out that it was Sanchez that helped turn this game on a dime for the Pirates. After seven frustrating innings mostly against Jacob deGrom (he walked five in his 6 2/3 innings of work), Sanchez pinch-hit for Davis to lead off the eighth against left Scott Rice. He launched a home run to get the Pirates on the board. After Starling Marte and Jose Tabata combined to tie the game later in the inning, Sanchez singled home Neil Walker and Andrew McCutchen came in on a throwing error on the same play. Sanchez scored on Russell Martin’s at-bat and just like that, a frustrating 2-0 game that looked like it was going to waste a strong Brandon Cumpton start became a solid 5-2 Pirate lead. Mark Melancon then took the mound in the ninth trying to prove my point about one-run leads by allowing a solo homer to Lucas Duda (that’s Melancon’s first homer allowed since last April, I think), but the five runs the Pirates scored were plenty.
As it turns out, the Mets have already released Jose Valverde (responsible for Marte’s double and Tabata’s single in the eighth, plus the whole Pirate rally in the ninth save Russell Martin’s final RBI double) and fired their hitting coach to boot. Ten days ago, it felt like the Pirates were close to being on the other side of this sort of thing. Sometimes it’s amazing what a difference a week can make in baseball.