The Pirates’ season isn’t as hopeful as it once was. Every now and then, though, they still find a way to win. Today’s 8-1 win involved an offensive explosion to go along with AJ Burnett’s dominant eight innings of work.
Burnett gave up a double to the second batter of the game, but that didn’t cost anything. He walked Jose Altuve with 2 outs in the 3rd and gave up an infield single to Scott Moore after Altuve stole 2nd. Altuve got greedy and tried to score on the play, but a nice throw home from Josh Harrison and a good tag by Rod Barajas got Altuve at the plate to end the inning. The only thing that cost Burnett a run was a solo homer to Scott Moore in the 6th inning. Burnett allowed 2 baserunners in the 8th inning but escaped with no damage done. He pitched 8 beautiful innings, giving up just the one run on 4 hits, a walk and an HBP. Burnett struck out 11 Astros batters. “He had great stuff,” Barajas said. “He always has a good curve, but today he had the fastball to go with it. He just had a great mix and when he has that working, he’s tough to hit.” Avoiding the Pirates’ taxed bullpen was a relief. Just Chad Qualls pitched today, and he pitched a perfect 9th inning.
The Pirates missed out on a few scoring opportunities early in the game, but that all changed in the 5th inning. The Pirates loaded the bases, and whatever dam had been keeping them from capitalizing on opportunities like this broke. Wide open. Wesley Wright came in to pitch for the Astros, replacing starter Jordan Lyles, and his third pitch hit Gaby Sanchez, giving the Bucs their first run. After striking out Pedro Alvarez, Wright was replaced by Mickey Storey, who walked Jose Tabata on 4 pitches to give the Bucs their 2nd run. Consecutive RBI singles by Clint Barmes and Rod Barajas made it 4-0 Pirates. “You pretty much knew after we scored those 4 runs, this was [AJ]’s game,” Rod Barajas said. The Pirates scored another run in the 6th on an RBI double by Andrew McCutchen. Pedro, Tabata, and Burnett each drove in another run in the 8th to make the score 8-1. JHay was 4 for 6 today, and Alex Presley, Cutch, Gaby, Barmes, and Rod each had 2 hits. Rod was on base 4 times, once on a fielder’s choice and once on an error, and reached base for the 7th straight game.
The Pirates are now 2 games below .500 at 75 and 77, but if they go 7 and 3 they’ll finish above .500. They’re also not yet mathematically eliminated from the Wild Card race. It’s not probable, but it’s possible, and this team showed today that they still have fight and they still have life. They didn’t win on lucky breaks today. Burnett pitched well, and while the HBP and walk were helpful, the offense got hits at the necessary times to win a game.
“We know we have some fight in us,” Rod said. “Everybody out here is giving their best effort. We always find a way, and that’s what we’re trying to do now. Hopefully this win propels us, and we’re able to do something ridiculous. And you never know what could happen.”
The Pirates are off to New York tomorrow to play a 4-game series against the Mets, who are already eliminated from the playoffs. Kyle McPherson (0-1, 2.25 ERA) will face Jenrry Mejia (0-1, 9.00 ERA).