Tonight wasn’t part of our game-pack, so we decided to go with some All You Can Eat seats for the rubber match against the Twins. Just about everyone was expecting James McDonald to pitch a great game like he’s been doing all season, but no one could have expected the gem he spun tonight.
McDonald struck out two Twins in the first inning, and it looked like it was going to be a good game early on. The Bucs got on the board with two down after Andrew McCutchen tripled off of Liam Hendriks and Garrett Jones drove him in on a single that was just out of reach of Alexi Casilla. J-Mac stranded a lead off double in the second, and Cutch put three runs on the board in the bottom half. With two outs and runners on first and second, Neil Walker hit a sharp ground ball to the shortstop, who bobbled it to keep the inning alive. Cutch stroked a double to left-center, clearing the bases and making it 4-0; more than enough for McDonald.
The only run Minnesota could plate was in the fourth inning on a Ryan Doumit two-out RBI-single. Rod Barajas threw out a runner in the sixth, and followed it up with a two-run bomb to make it 6-1 Bucs. The seventh inning was just icing on the cake. Cutch singled to lead off, putting him a homer away from the cycle. Jones followed with a two-run blast over the Clemente Wall, and Pedro tacked on a solo shot two batters later. His 13th homer of the year hit the railing at the back of the RF seats, cleared the riverwalk and landed in the grass right by the Allegheny. Not sure of the exact distance, but it had to be one of his furthest home runs.
McDonald pitched a 1-2-3 eighth, and it was unclear whether he could come back out for the complete game in the ninth. But sure enough, he wasn’t pinch-hit for and started the ninth at 106 pitches. He gave up a single, but got Doumit to fly out to end the ballgame – his first career complete game.
Tonight was really an awesome all-around game for the Bucs. More than enough offense, and a great game by the ace of the staff – all in front of 21,563 fans, which isn’t too bad for a weeknight game. J-Mac hasn’t given up more than 3 runs in any of his 14 starts this year, and is just solidifying his role as ace of the staff.
The Reds were idle tonight, so the Bucs picked up a half game on them and are now 2 games out of first in the division and a game back of a wildcard spot. Three big games coming up this weekend against the underachieving Tigers, with Verlander going on Sunday. Should be some good games.
McDonald’s final line: 9 IP, 6 H, 1 ER, 5 K, 0 BB
Pirates (36-32) – Twins (27-41)
Win: McDonald (6-3)
Loss: Hendricks (0-4)