Let’s not mince words. The Pirates pummeled Milwaukee on Thursday.
It was a strange game, to say the least. Just to give you an idea of how strange I’ll share this note I jotted down during Pittsburgh’s four-run sixth inning.
“Pedro Alvarez stole a base. Clint Barmes smashed an RBI off the wall. Justin Wilson has a bat in his hands. The Pirates are kicking the (crap) out of the Brewers. 5/16/13 — officially Opposite Day.”
But was it really Opposite Day? The Pirates have won three consecutive and four out of seven games against the Brewers this season and, for the time being at least, appear to have vanquished whatever demons they had when playing against Milwaukee.
All season Pittsburgh has had timely contributions from unexpected places and that was again the case in their 7-1 win on Thursday.
With the game tied 1-1 in the fifth inning Starling Marte did what he has been so good at this season and started the inning with a hit. Snider followed him and parked the first pitch of the at-bat from Milwaukee starter Hiram Burgos well beyond the wall in right-center field. The Pirates announced the ball traveled 458 feet and came to a stop in the Allegheny River to put Pittsburgh ahead for good. It was Snider’s first home run of the season.
“I feel like early on in the season as I started to get some more consistent playing time I was starting to find my stride driving the ball, not hitting home runs, but with more consistent contact at the plate,” he said.
Pittsburgh manager Clint Hurdle echoed Snider’s statement.
“We were looking for somebody to start something and that swing of the bat did,” he said. “He’s worked so hard to find his way back offensively and he’s finding his way back in a good way. Big swing of the bat for us tonight.”
Snider hit was appeared to be his first home run earlier this season at PNC Park against Cincinnati, but after a review it was ruled a double. He said he learned from that experience.
“I didn’t watch this one,” he said. “I bat-flipped a double earlier this year so I wanted to make sure I put my head down and started running and fortunately it was over the fence.”
And then there was the sixth inning.
Clint Barmes led off the inning by reaching on an error, and after Brandon Inge popped out the Pirates rattled off five consecutive hits (including four singles) to blow the game open and perhaps erase whatever power it was Milwaukee has had when playing Pittsburgh in recent seasons.
The win gave the Pirates a 3-1 edge in the series and marked the fourth time this season Pittsburgh has lost the first of a four-game series and gone on to win the final three.
“I had no idea this was how you go about trying to win a four game series — by losing the first game,” Hurdle said. “All these years and I never had that. We can joke about that now but there’s no explanation for it. You want to talk about figuring some things out, figure what the odds are of that happening.”
Francisco Liriano looked good in his second start for the Pirates, but found himself in a bit of trouble early. Fortunately for him, the defense came to his rescue.
Nori Aoki started the game with a walk and was promptly thrown out attempting to steal second base by Martin. Jean Segura then singled and would have scored on Jonathan Lucroy’s shot to deep center field if not for an outstanding play by McCutchen to leap and catch the ball with the sun in his eyes. Liriano then struck out Carlos Gomez (the first of his seven strikeouts in the game) to end the inning.
“A professional outing. We helped him in the first. Russell Martin with a great throw, McCutchen with a great play,” Hurdle said. “I think he struggled with his rhythm. The last strikeout to get the third out of the inning helped a little bit and then from the second inning on his rhythm on the mound improved.”
Liriano improves to 2-0 this year with the win. Not only has he been a force on the mound with a combined 17 strikeouts in his two starts but he has had great run support in each appearance. In his first start last week against the Mets the Pirates scored 11 runs and then Thursday against the Brewers they plated seven runs.