If there is one trend the Pittsburgh Pirates have had over the years, it’s that they haven’t capitalized when the opposing pitcher is on the ropes. Today, with the Chicago Cubs leading 2-0, and Ryan Dempster struggling in the fifth inning, that wasn’t the case.
Ryan Doumit started off the inning with a single, and moved to second when Garrett Jones grounded out to third. Ronny Cedeno fought back from a 1-2 count to walk, putting runners at first and second with one out. A nice sacrifice bunt by Kevin Correia put both runners in scoring position, and a Jose Tabata walk set the table for Neil Walker.
Walker connected on a hard hit ball in the top of the fourth inning, with a liner to right-center field that was just within the reach of Kosuke Fukudome. This time around, Walker hit one where no one could catch it, launching a grand slam out of the stadium, and putting the Pirates up 4-2.
Two innings later, Walker hit another hard hit ball to the right-center gap, this one out of the reach of Fukudome, putting the Pirates’ second baseman on with a double. Andrew McCutchen followed that up with a two run shot to left field, giving the Pirates some insurance with a 6-2 lead.
Kevin Correia made his debut with the Pirates, and got off to a bit of a rough start, before hitting his stride in the fourth inning. Correia was hurt in the first inning when Pedro Alvarez made two poor plays at third base, allowing a run to score. Alvarez bobbled a hard hit ball by Starlin Castro, with the play being ruled a hit. On the next play, he threw wild to first on a grounder by Marlon Byrd, which allowed Castro to score.
Correia’s only earned run came on a similar circumstance in the third inning. Fukudome led off with a single on a line drive to right field. Correia got Castro to hit a sharp grounder to second, which Neil Walker grabbed on a nice play. Walker had trouble making the toss to second, and was only able to get one out. After two singles, the bases were loaded for Carlos Pena. Pena grounded to Walker, who again made the throw to second for one out. This time around the play was an almost impossible double play ball, which allowed Castro to score again, putting the Cubs up 2-0.
Correia settled down in the fourth, needing just eight pitches to get through the inning. Alfonso Soriano led off with a fly out to center field, Darwin Barney grounded out to Correia, who made a nice recovery on a hard hit ball between his legs, and Ryan Dempster struck out on three pitches. The fifth inning was another easy inning for Correia, as Fukudome struck out swinging, followed by two groundouts to end the inning.
After a scoreless sixth inning, Correia led off the seventh at the plate with a 4-2 lead, and just 84 pitches under his belt. McCutchen put the Pirates up with his homer, which put Correia on a short leash. He was pulled after a pop up to Darwin Barney in the bottom of the seventh, which landed in the middle of four players between the mound and home plate.
Despite the 6-3 victory today, the defense wasn’t pretty, and Pedro Alvarez was the big culprit. Aside from his two errors in the first inning, he missed two pop ups in the infield. One came in the sixth inning, where he misses a Carlos Pena pop up with a runner on first, but was able to get the force out at second base. The second pop up, the one in the seventh, arguably was Alvarez’s ball.
Garrett Olson came on to make his Pirates’ debut after that pop up, ending Correia’s day. Correia finished with two earned runs on seven hits in six innings, with a walk and three strikeouts. The second earned run came in the seventh, when Olson allowed a one-out RBI single to left field. The run that scored was the missed pop up, and shouldn’t have been ruled a hit in the first place. Jose Veras came on, and allowed a hit to put two runners on. Then, with two outs, Veras allowed a long fly ball to left-center field, which Andrew McCutchen caught at the warning track for the third out.
From there, Evan Meek and Joel Hanrahan cruised. Meek allowed a single in the eighth inning, but retired the next three batters, with two strikeouts. Hanrahan came on to close out the ninth, and allowed a walk and a single, but recorded two strikeouts, and got Aramis Ramirez to ground in to a force out to end the game, giving the Pirates a 6-3 win. Hanrahan was working in the upper 90s, hitting 98 and 99 on several occasions, and showing some good tailing life on his fastball.
1. Kevin Correia – A great debut by Correia. You could argue that none of the runs allowed were his fault, as they all were a result of poor defensive plays.
2. Neil Walker – Walker was crushing the ball today, with two hard hit shots to right-center, and his grand slam, which left the stadium.
3. Andrew McCutchen – McCutchen’s home run in the seventh gave the Pirates’ bullpen some breathing room.
1. Pedro Alvarez – It wasn’t a good day for Alvarez on the field. Hopefully it’s just one game.
2. Jose Veras – He got out of the seventh inning, but allowed two fly ball outs, one of which almost tied up the game at 6-6.
3. The Middle Infield – It’s hard to find a third person who had a poor game, since everyone was pretty solid, outside of Alvarez’s horrible defense. Neil Walker certainly led the team well on offense, but the defense of Walker and Ronny Cedeno looked a little rough at times. They got the job done, but looked a bit rusty.