The Pittsburgh Pirates beat the Cincinnati Reds tonight 4-1, talking the first game of a three game series between the two teams. That’s an important win since whoever wins the series gets home field advantage in the Wild Card game. The win tonight means that one more win from either Charlie Morton (Reds killer) or Gerrit Cole (on fire lately) will put Francisco Liriano on the mound in PNC Park on Tuesday.
I didn’t see the game tonight. I’ve been driving up from Florida today to cover the Wild Card game (wherever it is) and hopefully more playoff games after that. I did listen to the entire thing, including part of the game on a Cincinnati feed I found on the radio after my MLB At-bat app crashed and started asking for log-in information. That gave me the unique experience of knowing that Pedro Alvarez absolutely destroyed a ball without having seen it, all because of the immediate excitement with the “drive to center”, followed by a quick but mellow “4-1 Pirates” as they realized that the majestic home run put the Reds further back.
Apart from that, I was listening for A.J. Burnett to have a bad inning. That has been an alarming trend for him in the last two months, but it didn’t happen tonight. He went out for the eighth inning in one of those “hold your breath and hope Hurdle didn’t go back to him one too many times” moments. But Burnett handled it well, getting through the inning quickly and finishing with 99 pitches. He didn’t have a big inning in his last start, and the time before that the “big inning” was two runs in the seventh. It’s good to see Burnett playing well heading into the playoffs. If Liriano wins the Wild Card game, that would set Burnett up to start games one and five of the division series. With the way he has been pitching lately, there’s a good chance he could get them off to a good start in game one.
It’s also good to see Pedro Alvarez heating up. Coming into this game, Alvarez had a .298 average and a .798 OPS in his last seven games. Getting a boost from his bat in the middle of the order would be huge, especially if Andrew McCutchen breaks out of his recent slump. As I’ve been saying, it’s not so much about who has the best team. It’s all about who gets hot at the right time. Between Burnett, Alvarez, Liriano, Neil Walker, Gerrit Cole, Charlie Morton, Marlon Byrd, and Starling Marte, the Pirates have a lot of players who are heating up at the right time.
First they need one more win against Cincinnati this weekend to improve their chances in the Wild Card game. Considering the pitching matchups, and how Morton and Cole have been pitching lately, I’d say there’s a good chance we could see that Wild Card game at PNC Park.