Even now that they are good, the Pittsburgh Pirates refuse to do anything the easy way. Coming into this afternoon’s game, they had a chance to sweep the Cubs. And during the game, the Mets took down the Reds for the second straight night. That meant that a win would mean the Pirates would only need to beat the Reds once this weekend to clinch a home playoff game. But all that would do is lower my blood pressure and they don’t want that.
Francisco Liriano did not have his best stuff today but you wouldn’t really know it by looking at the box score. He struck out eight and only had one walk but he labored through much of the start. However, it didn’t hurt him through the first five innings. An RBI single by Anthony Rizzo in the first inning was the only blemish until the sixth inning. Liriano’s day likely would have been done after the fifth if it wasn’t for a nine pitch inning. That quick inning prompted him to come out for the sixth and that didn’t end well. Darnell McDonald hit a three run home run before Liriano would even record an out in the inning and chase him from the game. The bats weren’t much help either. The game was tied at one early on but that was off of a bases loaded walk. The only Pirate run came on a Jose Tabata triple in the ninth inning that was part of a futile comeback attempt.
Player of the Game: Darnell McDonald
McDonald was a nightmare for Liriano. He went 3-for-4 in this game and all three hits came while Liriano was on the mound. The biggest of those three hits was the last one in the sixth inning which was the three run home run to give the Cubs the lead. Leaving Liriano in to give up that shot is one time where I will not bash Clint Hurdle. After the nine pitch fifth inning, I thought that Liriano should come back out for the sixth. So I was wrong too. He just wasn’t himself today and has had some consistency issues late this season. It’s going to make for quite a debate for who will pitch the one game playoff against Cincinnati.
Play of the Game: Garrett Jones
Jones was back in the starting lineup today after not starting for a couple of weeks and let me just say that I did not miss him too much. The offense was back to it’s old tricks after scoring eight runs yesterday so the opportunities to score were rather limited. Jones had a great chance to drive in some runs with the bases loaded in the third inning after a bases loaded walk by Justin Morneau put the Bucs on the board. That walk was the second of consecutive walks given up by Jake Arrieta. You would think that would tell Jones to be patient at the plate. Instead, he went up hacking and grounded out to end the inning. He didn’t have any hits today.
Up Next: Cincinnati Reds, Friday, 7:05pm
The last series of the regular season will start after a day off tomorrow. And what a big series it is. The Pirates come into it with a one game lead for second place in the NL Central. Winning the first game of this series would ease the minds of many Pirates fans and A.J. Burnett will be the one called upon to do it. He’s faced the Reds three times this year and is 2-1 including a win against them in his last start.
Homer Bailey will pitch for the Reds who is 0-3 against the Pirates this year. Only one of those starts came in PNC Park where Bailey has a history of being dominant.