This week’s series against the Chicago Cubs certainly didn’t pan out the way most of us thought it would. After all, the Pirates entered Monday’s action on a five game winning streak, while the Cubs had just been swept by the St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium. But the tables turned the past couple days, as Chicago took the first two games of the series, outscoring the Bucs by a combined 7-1 score.
The Pirates, though, as good teams usually do, responded to adversity and avoided the sweep with a 3-2 victory this afternoon at PNC Park.
Neil Walker and Michael McKenry each hit a solo homerun, and Garrett Jones smacked an RBI double off the Cubs’ Ryan Dempster in the sixth inning to drive in the game’s winning run. Andrew McCutchen and Alex Presley had the only other hits for the Pirates, who once again struggled at the plate for the majority of the afternoon. As for McCutchen, his 1-3 performance dropped his average slightly to .369 on the season.
Ryan Dempster has been the in headlines a lot as of late, due to an impressively stingy season ERA and trade rumors linked to the Los Angeles Dodgers and Atlanta Braves. But the Pirates’ starter Kevin Correia, who may in the middle of some baseball drama of his own, out-pitched his mound opponent this afternoon. With the acquisition of Wandy Rodriguez yesterday, the Pirates have some decisions to make in regards to the starting pitching rotation, and some believe that Correia may be the odd man out. But today, he pitched a solid game, giving up just two runs on four hits through his six innings of work.
The Pirates bullpen, working with a lead for the first time in the series, held the Cubs in check through the final three innings of the game. Jared Hughes and Jason Grilli set the table in the seventh and eighth innings, as Joel Hanrahan earned his 29th save of the season by setting the Cubs down in order in the ninth.
Anthony Rizzo was the hitting star of the day for the Cubs, going 2-3 with a homerun and two RBI’s in the losing effort.
As my FFTS co-editor and I discussed after last night’s game, it was difficult NOT to call today’s game a must-win. They needed a big time performance from their starting pitcher, and even though it wasn’t A.J. Burnett or James McDonald, who the Pirates and their fans have trusted to shut down the opposing team at earlier points in the season, Kevin Correia stepped up and had a huge performance. Timely hits from Walker, McKenry, and Jones helped an offense which has become disturbingly quiet as of late.
The Pirates are now 13 games over .500 as they have concluded a 4-2 home stand. For the time being, they are two games behind the Cincinnati Reds, who play the Houston Astros later this evening. When things turn sour for a couple games, good teams are able to keep a minor slump from turning into a losing streak…and that’s exactly what the Pirates did today. While this series wasn’t as inspiring as we had hoped, it still proves that this is a different team. Last year’s team would have lost this game and would have been swept. Not this team. Not this year.
The Pirates travel to Houston for a four-game series beginning tomorrow, where they will meet up with their latest member, Wandy Rodriguez. It hasn’t been announced what his position will be in the team’s starting rotation.
Record vs. Cubs: 4-2
Record vs. N.L. Central: 22-15
Record at Home: 33-16
Overall Record: 55-42
Let’s Go Bucs!