Jeff Locke against Johnny Cueto? Good luck. Even I wasn’t feeling too optimistic about this game. However, Jeff Locke’s Pirates proved me wrong, and I’m sure I wasn’t the only one. Cueto left after just 4.1 innings with an injured arm. I won’t be happy about the injury, but the timing worked out well for the Pirates as they made their way to a 3-1 win.
Jeff Locke had his defense to thank for getting him out of a few jams, but he pitched 5 innings, giving up just 4 hits and 4 walks. The only run he gave up was a solo homer to Zach Cozart with one out in the 3rd inning. Justin Wilson had an unusually exciting outing, giving up 3 hits and walking 2 over an inning and two-thirds. He was helped out when Ryan Hanigan was caught stealing and didn’t allow a run to score. Jared Hughes finished the 7th inning, coming in with runners on 1st and 3rd and 2 outs and getting Xavier Paul to ground out softly. Mark Melancon pitched a perfect 8th, and Jason Grilli pitched a hitless 9th to seal another win, getting his 5th save of the year.
Grilli spoke well of the bullpen following the game. “Pretty good, huh? We got a good squad,” he said. “No one’s bigger than each other; we’re all rooting for each other.” Does he enjoy being the Bucs’ new closer? “It’s amazing. It’s frickin’ awesome.”
The Pirates’ scoring started in the 4th inning. With 2 outs, Andrew McCutchen walked. Garrett Jones followed up with a double, 1 of his 2 hits tonight, that scored Cutch and tied the score at 1. Cueto excited the game with 1 out in the 5th, and reliever Alfredo Simon immediately gave up singles to Travis Snider and Clint Barmes. After getting Josh Harrison to fly out, Simon gave up an RBI single to Starling Marte. Travis Snider scored to put the Pirates on top, 2-1. Pedro Alvarez walked to lead off the 7th inning, and a groundout and flyout moved him to 3rd base before Jose Tabata doubled him home, making the score 3-1.
The Pirates improved to 5 and 6 with the win, tying them with the Reds for 2nd place in the NL Central. Tomorrow, the Pirates look to SWEEP THE REDS at 1:35pm. Phil Irwin will start for the Pirates in place of the injured Wandy Rodriguez. He’ll face Mat Latos (0-0, 2.84 ERA).
“I love the energy around here,” Jason Grilli said after tonight’s game as he looked around at the PNC Park crowd. “We gotta keep this up.”