Yuck. Huge roadtrip for the Bucs this week – 4 in St. Louis and 3 in Cincinnati before heading into the All-Star break. Not too many positives to talk about this week.
Adam Wainwright vs. Charlie Morton played out pretty much the way you would expect it; the two starters combined to throw 14 scoreless innings and neither factored into the decision. Waino was his normal dominant self, but the Bucs actually had a few chances to get to him. They left two men on in the 1st, then the first two batters reached in the 2nd, only for Jordy Mercer to ground into a double play. Jordy left runners on second and third to end the 4th, and Starling Marte‘s two-out triple in the 5th meant nothing after Wainwright retired Cutch.
As good as Wainwright was, Chuck went out there and absolutely carved up the Cardinal lineup. He surrendered only one hit, and had the nasty curve working for 5 K’s. He was lifted after 7 innings because his spot was due up with the bases loaded and two outs. Gregory Polanco pinch-hit for him and struck out on 4 pitches. Real tough call there. Morton had thrown just 84 pitches so he easily could have pitched the 8th and probably into the 9th. But in a scoreless game like that, especially with someone like Polanco on the bench, you have to try to get a run home.
The game remained 0-0 into the bottom of the 9th, when Matt Adams sent everyone home with a two-run walkoff bomb. Of course.
The Pirates went 0-10 with runners in scoring position. No way can you blame the loss on anyone/anything other than the bats.
Roughly 24 hours after Matt Adams walked off, Kolten Wong did the exact same thing.
Vance Worley got knocked around for the first time as a Pirate, giving up 4 runs on 9 hits in 5 innings. Fortunately, Carlos Martinez had nearly an identical line, also giving up 4 runs. A couple of two-run blasts, one by Pedro and one by Cutch, supplied the offense for the Bucs.
The game, once again, was tied heading into the bottom half of the 9th. Ernesto Frieri retired the first two batters easily. Wong worked a full count before sending the payoff pitch into the bullpen to walk off for the second straight night.
Clint Hurdle took a ton of heat for not using Mark Melancon in the tie game. Again, it’s really a tough call. St. Louis did have the bottom of the order due up, but Peralta, Taveras, and Wong aren’t exactly easy outs. Probably should’ve used Melancon there, especially after not using him on Monday.
Brandon Cumpton really didn’t have anything on Wednesday night as the Cardinals rolled to a 5-2 win and moved into a tie for 1st place in the NL Central. The two Pirate runs came on a Neil Walker solo homer and a Jordy Mercer RBI-single.
A four-game sweep seemed imminent after the way the first three games of the series went, but Edinson Volquez filled the role as the stopper, tossing a complete game.
The Bucs were able to go to work against Shelby Miller early, with Russell Martin driving in a run to make it 1-0 in the 1st. Cutch chased home a run and Walker doubled home a couple in the 5th, which was Miller’s last inning. 4 runs came around to score in the 6th, which really put the game out of reach. Russ went yard in the 9th to make the score 9-1, which was really the cherry on top.
Volquez was at the top of his game and was able to scatter 6 hits and 2 walks across his 9 innings of work. Just what the Bucs needed after three atrocious losses.
It looked like finishing the St. Louis series with a win would translate into success in Cincy, and through 6 innings it did. After a bunt single and Zack Cozart double that made it 1-0 Reds before an out was even recorded, Jeff Locke settled in and the offense gave him 5 runs to work with. Cutch and Pedro both took Mat Latos deep. Martin drove in a run to make it 5-1. Latos lasted just 5.1 innings and only gave up 3 hits, but the Bucs made them count with a couple of homers.
Locke ran into some trouble in the 7th and was charged with two unearned runs because of Pedro’s throwing error that should have been the first out of the inning. Tony Watson, who’d been lights out all season and really since 2012, came in for the 8th with the Pirates up 5-3. After two quick outs, Devin Mesoraco took Watson deep to make it a one-run game. Four straight singles followed, completing the bullpen implosion and putting the Reds on top. Aroldis Chapman struck out the side in the 9th.
Just like the first two games of the St. Louis series ended with the Cardinals hitting walkoff home runs, it looked like the first two games in Cincinnati would end with the Reds coming all the way back to win. With the Bucs up 4-0, Charlie Morton gave up a two-run shot to Chris Heisey and three-run bomb to Todd Frazier before even recording an out. With two swings of the bat, the game went from 4-0 to 5-4. That remained the score until the 9th, when Cutch led off the inning by taking Jonathan Broxton deep for a game-tying homer to centerfield.
With the game now tied, Tony Watson came in and almost had a repeat of the night before. He was able to strand two runners, but it looked like the bullpen would blow it again in the 10th. Ernesto Frieri faced two batters and retired neither. Justin Wilson came in to face Jay Bruce, who singled to right field. Ramon Santiago tried to score, but Gregory Polanco was having none of it and gunned him down at the plate. Wilson intentionally walked the next batter to set up the force at any base, and proceeded to strike out the next two batters.
Cutch’s heroics continued in the 11th, when he sent the first pitch he saw into the seats for the go-ahead homer. Jeanmar Gomez retired the side in order in the bottom of the inning to even the series. What a game.
Elias: McCutchen 1st player in #Pirates history to hit both tying and go-ahead homer after the 8th inning. That would be 128 seasons.
— Gene Collier (@genecollier) July 13, 2014
Francisco Liriano made his first start since the night that Polanco debuted and looked to send the Bucs to the break with a win. Kristopher Negron was having none of that, and put the Reds up 3-0 with his first career homer in the 2nd. Getting out of that hole would be tough against Johnny Cueto, who was able to make it hold up. The Bucs got within a run, but Mesoraco doubled home a run to pad the lead a bit more. Neil Walker led off the 6th with a solo shot to get that run right back, but Todd Frazier answered in the bottom of the inning with a two-run homer that barely got out and really put the game out of reach. Chapman once again struck out the side in order to finish off the 6-3 win
Tough stretch heading into the All-Star break. A couple close games that could have gone either way, which makes it even worse. If there’s one positive to look at, it has to be the offense. Cutch is still putting up MVP numbers and actually has better numbers than he did at last year’s ASG break. Walker seems to have found his stroke again now that he’s healthy and is fitting into the cleanup spot well. Pedro hit a couple of bombs this week, which is encouraging for the second half of the season. The bullpen clearly needs some work. Plenty of names have been thrown around as potential trade targets, so we’ll have to see how that plays out with the trade deadline now about two weeks away. Here are the division and Wild Card standings as we head into the All-Star break:
Bucs are still very much in both races. The Wild Card could get very complicated with all three divisions being so close. The division is obviously the main goal, and the Pirates will have every opportunity to make up those 3.5 games.
This week’s pic/GIF of the week is a Vine. Check out Jordy Mercer going nuts after Cutch’s go-ahead homer on Saturday night: