The 22-game losing streak in Milwaukee is over. The nightmarish seven-game losing streak that was made of nightmares previously undreamt by Pirate fans is over. One inning, an inning in which the Pirates scored as many times as they did in their previous 44 against the Brewers, wipes all those streaks clean. And you know what? It feels good. I don’t care if fans of other teams think that sounds sad; this win feels good.
What this game really is is a testament to what happens when a starter keeps his team in the game. Jeff Karstens was by no means great tonight. He walked as many hitters as he struck out and he put a lot of guys on base, he gave up a double to Randy Wolf and a homer to George Kotteras, and he flirted with disaster more than once tonight. On most other nights, he probably would’ve given up more than two runs. But he didn’t melt with runners on base or throw in the towel after two doubles in the third inning brought Ryan Braun up with a runner on second and two outs. He might’ve given up five on another night, but he wouldn’t have given up 12.
And what happens as a result of Karstens minimizing damage and keeping things close? Prince Fielder’s eighth inning homer is a tiebreaker and not a backbreaker. Ronny Cedeno’s leadoff homer feels like the start of a comeback, not a shot in the dark 90 minutes after even the most hardcore Pirate fan turned off the game. And Ryan Doumit’s grand slam is a game-winner instead of a gap-closer.
This game isn’t a lot of things. It’s not a sign that Jeff Karstens is any sort of long-term savior to the rotation. It’s not a sign that this team is ready to roll off five straight wins and pretend like last week never happened. What it is is the exact sort of game I want to see the Pirates play every night. Sure, some nights Karstens gives up more runs. Some nights Andy LaRoche can’t find the same spot with all four of his line drives or the hits won’t come in the ninth inning or the bullpen will give up more than one run. Those nights will probably outnumber the nights like tonight. But this team shouldn’t be losing games like the ones they were losing before tonight, if only because no Major League team should be losing games like that. If nothing else, I hope that tonight helps the players and fans alike put that those seven games behind us because that’s really where those games need to be.