If the last two games are any indication of how the Wild Card game could go, then the Pittsburgh Pirates are putting up some good signs. Yesterday they won 4-1 in a game where A.J. Burnett dominated the Cincinnati Reds, and Pedro Alvarez and Marlon Byrd led the offense. Today the offense destroyed the ball, launching six homers en route to an 8-3 victory. That win sealed home field in the Wild Card game, which will be played against the Reds on Tuesday.
Today was the first time the Pirates hit six homers in a game since the 2007 season. Neil Walker connected for two, and Andrew McCutchen, Pedro Alvarez, Marlon Byrd, and Andrew Lambo all had one each.
Walker and McCutchen went back to back in the third inning, putting the Pirates on the board and up 2-0. The Reds quickly came back in the bottom of the inning, getting three runs on an RBI single from Brandon Phillips, followed by a two RBI double by Jay Bruce. Pedro Alvarez quickly tied the score at 3-3 in the fourth, hitting his 36th home run and 100th RBI of the season.
The Pirates took the lead in the fourth inning, getting three more runs off homers. Neil Walker hit his second of the game, breaking the tie. Marlon Byrd later hit a two run shot, putting the Pirates up 6-3.
Charlie Morton ran into trouble in the fifth inning. He gave up two straight singles before striking out Jay Bruce. That was followed by a walk to load the bases, putting the lead in danger. Morton had struggled earlier, giving up three hits, four walks, and hitting a batter in his first four innings. After the walk, the Pirates turned to Vin Mazzaro, who came on to get Zack Cozart swinging and Ryan Ludwick to line out to center field, escaping the jam.
The Pirates didn’t allow the game to get close after that. Andrew Lambo hit a solo homer in the sixth, which was his first major league home run. That put the Pirates up 7-3, and created a funny situation where Lambo returned to the dugout and wasn’t greeted by anyone for 20 seconds. They added an eighth run in the eighth inning when Clint Barmes hit a sacrifice fly after three straight singles to start the inning.
The win was a huge statement for the Pirates. Not only did they take home field in the Wild Card, but they dominated the Reds for the second straight game. They also saw continued production out of Neil Walker, who has been on a hot streak lately. Pedro Alvarez also looks to be heating up, and Marlon Byrd remains productive since the trade. The one downside was that Charlie Morton had a bad outing, although the offense picked him up.
One benefit to winning the first two games is that tomorrow’s game has no impact. The Pirates will be turning to Brandon Cumpton for the start, which allows them to save Gerrit Cole for the Wild Card game. The Pirates have a huge advantage in that game, since Francisco Liriano will be starting, and has been lights out at home. They could also give their offensive players a day off, which would give them two off-days in a row.
The Wild Card game will be played Tuesday at 8:07 PM EST, and will be aired on TBS.