Tonight was by far the most important game of the season for the Pirates, and man did they show up. James McDonald pitched a beauty and Pedro Alvarez hit two home runs that travelled a combined 891 feet as the Bucs went on to crush St. Louis by a score of 9-0.
J-Mac got off to a great start, and pitched a 1-2-3 scoreless first, something that he’s struggled with since the start of the second half. The Pirates got on the board in the first when Garrett Jones hit a sac-fly. And although they stranded runners on the corners, it was still nice to get an early lead.
With two outs and Josh Harrison on second base in the second inning, Jose Tabata (who has been very good in the leadoff spot since his return) singled to RF. Carlos Beltran fielded it and made a nice throw home. Yadier Molina made a nice catch on the short-hop, but Harrison was getting to the plate at the same time. He lowered his shoulder and barreled right into Molina’s neck/collarbone area. Obviously, Molina is the best defensive catcher in the game, and to no one’s surprise, he hung on to the ball for the third out. When he got up, he was clearly woozy and was in no condition to stay in the game. As far as whether or not the collision was a dirty play or not, it wasn’t. It simply was two tough players fighting to get their teams into the playoffs. It may have looked bad because Molina was low and couldn’t brace himself, but it was because of the late and low throw. So far, there’s no official word on Yadi’s condition, but the concussion test came back negative. Most Bucco fans hate Molina, but respect the fact that he’s a great catcher. Any significant time without him would really hurt the Cardinals.
J-Mac kept cruising, and the Bucs started raking. Cutch doubled off the LF wall in the third, and his swing looked great all day. Two batters later, Pedro crushed his first home run of the game. The 422-foot blast traveled over the North Side Notch and the 410 foot sign. Jake Westbrook, who is one of the more successful sinker-ballers in the game, is tough on lefties. But Pedro took a down-and-in sinker and crushed it to left-center.
The fifth inning was when the Pirates really busted the game open. Pedro drove in a run with a double, and Michael McKenry drove in another with a base-hit. J-Hay, who had an at-bat since the collision, was drilled on the first pitch of his AB. It was clearly intentional and was a form of retaliation, so both benches were warned. That’s pretty stupid, and Clint Hurdle thought so, too. Why should the Pirates be warned for doing absolutely nothing? Anyway, the inning continued with Clint Barmes knocking in two runs. The Bucs ended up leaving the bases loaded, but the damage was done.
Pedro’s second homer came in the sixth. With one out, he absolutely clobbered the pitch 469 feet over the riverwalk for the longest home run at PNC Park by a Pirate. The crowd was going crazy as he rounded the bases for the 25th time. They cheered him on for a curtain-call, and he responded by flashing the “Z” to everyone. Travis Snider tripled in a run in the seventh, which made it 9-0.
McDonald was done after seven great innings. He gave up just two hits, and struck out six. His curveball was right on, and he was working quickly. That’s the J-Mac we saw in the first half, and we need to keep seeing if the Bucs are going to make the postseason. Chris Resop was the first out of the bullpen and he gave up two hits right off the bat. He got a huge strikeout, but then the St. Louis pitcher loaded the bases with an infield-hit. Although the Bucs were up by nine, it didn’t feel too safe against a team that can strike quickly like the Cardinals. Resop responded by inducing a 5-4-3 inning-ending DP to keep the Cards off the board. Hisanori Takahashi pitched a quick ninth inning to complete the shutout.
In addition to his 4-5 day with 11 total bases, Pedro also played great defense. He made a top-ten play on a diving stop, and started a key double play. This could be the game that sparks one of his unreal hot streaks.
A win wasn’t absolutely needed tonight, but a loss would have been pretty devastating. Glad to see the Bucs stepped up, and played like they’re fighting for a playoff-birth. Let’s keep it up.
Pirates (69-60) – Cardinals (71-58)
Win: McDonald (12-6)
Loss: Westbrook (13-10)