If you thought Tuesday night’s game was big for the Bucs, Wednesday’s game might have been even more important. After the win on Tuesday, it wasn’t a must-win, but winning on Wednesday would give the Pirates the season-series win against the Cardinals, which could be extremely helpful in a wild card tie. Wandy Rodriguez took the bump for the Bucs against one of the best offensive teams in the league, and lead the Pirates to their second straight shutout.
The first batter of the game was Jon Jay, and he drew a nine-pitch walk. Not a great start, especially with the problems giving up first-inning runs the Pirates have had. But Wandy buckled down, and got three straight outs to end any chance of a big inning. Garrett Jones got the Bucs on the board when he smoked a two-out double to drive in Travis Snider, who also doubled.
From there, Rodriguez settled in and started to cruise. He allowed just three hits and three walks in six innings, but all three walks came to Jay, who saw 24 pitches in those three plate appearances. The most trouble Wandy got into was in the third when he gave up a walk and single with two outs, but got a flyout to end the inning.
It didn’t take long for the offense to get some more runs for Wandy. With a runner on second and two outs, Jones drew a walk to bring up Pedro Alvarez. He showed great patience at the plate, until Joe Kelly left a curveball hanging up and in. Pedro turned on it, and it sailed high over the Clemente wall for his 26th homer of the year. Not only did his hot streak continue, but his destruction of St. Louis in 2012 continued. He’s now hitting .396 with seven home runs and 26 RBI against the Red Birds this year, which has been key to the Bucs winning the season-series.
Cutch led off the fifth with a single to CF, and he really seems to be finding his stroke again. If he can get hot along with Pedro in September, there’s no telling how good this team could be. But what he did next was something that is just plain stupid. With Pedro up, he got thrown out trying to steal second. Besides the obvious fact that this throws away an out, it also takes the bat out of the hottest hitter’s hands. With McCutchen on first, there’s a huge hole between first and second, which Pedro could pull into. Just having Cutch on first makes the Cardinals pitcher have to focus more on him than Pedro, which would give him more pitches to hit. To make it worse, El Toro doubled into the gap, which would have easily scored Cutch. Josh Harrison picked his teammate up with a two-out single to make it 5-0, which was the final.
Wandy was done after six innings and Tony Watson was the first reliever out of the bullpen. After giving up a leadoff single, he got three straight outs. Jason Grilli pitched a dominant 1-2-3 eighth, and Joel Hanrahan closed it out.
A couple of things stand out about this game and series in general. The Pirates shut the Cardinals out in the final 21 innings of the series (from seventh inning in Monday’s game on.) They also outscored St. Louis, who is one of the highest scoring teams with the best run-differential in the league, 17-4 in the three games. What the Bucs proved to their fans and the rest of baseball is that they aren’t going anywhere. They’ll be in the hunt through the end of the season, which should make for an unreal month of September.
Pirates (70-60) – Cardinals (71-59)
Win: Rodriguez (9-13)
Loss: Kelly (4-6)