The West Coast trip continued this week with three games in San Francisco and four in Arizona. Things were looking good when the Bucs opened the week by shutting out the fellow Wild Card-chasing Giants, but everything seemed to spiral out of control over the weekend after a terrible loss on Sunday and news that Andrew McCutchen is likely heading to the DL.
Vance Worley took the hill Monday against Madison Bumgarner, and the Vanimal spun quite a gem against one of the best lefties in the league. He needed just 100 pitches to toss a complete game shutout, and allowed only 4 hits. The offense exploded for 4 runs in the first inning, and Josh Harrison went yard an inning later for the fifth run.
Francisco Liriano punched out 11 Giants on Tuesday on his way to his third win of the season. J-Hay added to his legendary status with a leadoff homer against Tim Hudson. Travis Snider‘s two-run shot accounted for the other two runs as the Bucs rolled 3-1.
Wednesday’s rubber match saw one of the worst baserunning mistakes in MLB history, and it very well may have cost the Pirates the game. Chris Stewart drew a walk with runners on second and third, and the play somehow ended with both of the runners being tagged out. The Giants won 7-5 thanks a late rally against Justin Wilson. Both starters were knocked around a bit, with Tim Lincecum lasting just 3.1 innings and Charlie Morton tossing just 5.
The road trip moved to Phoenix as the Bucs concluded the month of July with a very “blah” game. The Diamondbacks won 7-4 on the strength of three home runs. A throwing error by Pedro Alvarez also lead to a run, and it was clearly just one of “those” games.
Through 5 innings on Friday, the Dbacks led 4-0. Gaby Sanchez chipped away at the lead with an RBI in the 6th, and the offense went off in the 8th. Josh Harrison just missed a home run, but settled for a triple. Later in the inning, Cutch doubled home a run and Pedro Alvarez came through with a two-run pinch-hit double. 5 more runs came around to score in the 9th as the Bucs cruised to a 9-4 victory in what was a thrilling comeback win. In the bottom of the 9th, Paul Goldschmidt, who had the night off, got an AB and was plunked on the hand. Later it was announced that he’ll likely be out for the year. More on that to come.
Saturday night followed nearly the same script, with the Pirates besting the Diamondbacks late in the game. Vance Worley and Chase Anderson matched each other with just one run in 6 innings. Four runs came home in the 8th: Cutch and Brent Morel each drove in a run, and two scored on an Arizona error. Cutch came up again in the 9th, this time with runners on second and third. The first pitch from Randall Delgado was inside at Cutch’s knees. The second was a slider that missed. The third was a 95 MPH fastball that plunked Cutch right between the 2’s on the back of his jersey. Delgado was thrown out immediately and Cutch furiously took his base. It seemed pretty obvious that he was drilled in retaliation for Goldy being hit the night before, but we did some investigating and found that Miguel Montero called for the pitch that hit McCutchen. The Bucs got the last laugh with the 8-3 win, but you can bet this this won’t be the last you hear of the beanball incident.
Sunday’s affair saw Francisco Liriano and Trevor Cahill both pitch extremely well. Liriano was lifted after just 76 pitches because he was due up with the potential tying-run on second base. That run didn’t score, but Cutch was able to tie the game an inning later with a sacrifice fly. The MVP actually left the game in the 8th due to an oblique injury which he now know may cost him three weeks. The game stayed tied at 2 into the 10th inning, where it looked like Mark Melancon was going to induce an inning-ending double play with runners on the corners. Take a look at the play here:
The turn was made by new Pirate Jayson Nix, but the throw never made it to first. The winning run scored and the Dbacks walked off on one of the craziest walkoffs you’ll ever see. The umpires never reviewed the play to see if the runner interfered, although it certainly looks like he threw his arm up to block the throw. At the end of the day, the only opinions that matter are those of the umpires, and they decided the game was over. Brutal.
5-5 doesn’t seem like a terrible roadtrip but when you end it on a play like that and lose the reigning MVP for what looks to be significant time, it’s a pretty disappointing stretch. In the time that Cutch is expected to miss (nothing is official yet, but three weeks has been the number thrown around,) the Pirates will play the Marlins, who are tough, the Tigers, who just added a Cy Young winner to an already lights-out rotation, as well as the Braves and Nationals, who will be competing against each other for the NL East and against the Bucs for the Wild Card. You hate to say the season is over when August just started, but these next couple weeks could very well make or break the 2014 campaign for the Pirates.
GIF of the week goes to the TOOTBLAN in San Francisco. You really have to see it to believe it actually happened: