Before we get to the elephant looming over this game, let’s hit the positives. Jeff Karstens and the bullpen did some great work tonight and I thought Clint Hurdle did an excellent job managing his pitchers. We all know how quickly Karstens runs out of gas and Hurdle hooked him in the sixth inning tonight of a 1-1 game just as he started to look tired. I thought bringing Mike Crotta in was risky, but he got the groundball Hurdle had him out there for and got out of the jam. When Crotta got into trouble of his own in the seventh, Hurdle brought Joe Beimel out to put out the fire and even though he gave up a loooooong flyball to Andre Ethier, he got the job done. Jose Veras and Joel Hanrahan weren’t perfect in the seventh and eighth, but they got the job done. It’s not easy to hold a team to one run when your starter gives up eight baserunners in 5 1/3 innings, but both Hurdle and the bullpen did a good job keeping the game 1-1 for as long as they could.
And in doing so, they gave the Pirates offense a chance. The Bucs haven’t been setting the world on fire at the plate this year, but in the last ten days or so you can definitely see the bats start to come around. Tonight they got a parade of doubles from Neil Walker, Lyle Overbay, and Ryan Doumit (again righthanded!) after Garrett Jones opened the bottom of the eighth up with a walk. I was terrified that Neil Walker was going to square around to bunt after Hurdle replaced Jones with Xavier Paul and while the hit and run that Hurdle ultimately called for was definitely a dangerous play, I’m happy that Hurdle at least left the bat in the hands of his hottest hitter. Walker delivered and the guys behind him piled on and the Bucs got a solid win.
They got some great defense tonight, too. Pedro Alvarez made some nice plays at third including a diving stop to end the game and Andrew McCutchen covered a ton of ground out in center, including chasing down a Matt Kemp blast to the fence and turning it into a double play. Of course, the one play that will get the most attention is the sliding trap-catch that Jose Tabata made in the top of the eighth that got turned into a second outfield-assisted double play. The Dodgers were livid about the bad call (both Juan Uribe and Don Mattingly got tossed in between the top and bottom of the eighth) and they should’ve been; it was a brutal call that, unlike Andrew McCutchen’s sliding catch that wrongly got called a trp yesterday, the umpire should’ve had a good view of the play and he still blew it. I’ve been pretty vocal in my support for expanded replay and even though the Pirates won tonight, this sort of play is exactly why I think baseball needs it. It just feels wrong that such a huge swing in momentum is allowed to happen based on something other than what the players do on the field.
But you know what? The game was still 1-1 after the Dodgers got hosed. It wasn’t the umpires that reeled off three straight RBI doubles in the bottom of the eighth inning. It was the Pirates. The 18-17 Pittsburgh Pirates.