How many times in the last few years have opponents trotted out a starter to face the Pirates that had no business being in a Major League game? Today, the Cubs sent Ramon Ortiz to the mound, and the Pirates turned him right around and sent him to the showers with six runs around his neck.
The top of the lineup did the damage today; Alex Presley had two more hits and scored twice, Neil Walker added three extra base hits and scored twice, Andrew McCutchen added two sac flies and a monster game-breaking three-run homer off of Ortiz that turned a 2-0 game into a more comfortable 5-0 lead. Paul Maholm actually did his share that the plate, too, with a walk and a single. The game was over for all intents and purposes when the Bucs got a 6-0 lead in the fifth, but they piled on a bit against the Cubs bullpen, too, for the easy 9-1 win heading in the break.
Paul Maholm was excellent today, as well, striking out eight Cubs in his 7 2/3 innings work. He induced four double plays, as well, in the early going before he stopped putting people on base. Kevin Correia will be the Pirates’ third All-Star as the replacement for Cole Hamels as he was next in line from the player’s vote, but I think you’d have a hard time arguing that anyone’s been as good and as consistent on the Pirates’ staff in this first half as Maholm’s been.
The Brewers and Cardinals both won today, so the Pirates will stay in third place heading into the break at 46-42. It’s a little disappointing they couldn’t get one more win against the Cubs and ‘Stros to crack first before the break, but if you’re honestly disappointed in the Pirates being 46-42 in the first half, you’ve got some insanely high standards.
Final note: the Future’s Game is starting right now on ESPN and Starling Marte, the only Pirate prospect in the game, is batting leadoff for the World team.