At this point in the season, no game is a must-win. Although after losing three in a row to the St. Louis Cardianls, Thursday night’s match with those same Cardinals is about as close as you can get to a must-win in July. The Pittsburgh Pirates could not afford to be swept by the Cardianls. Not only would it add to the hole they are still trying to climb out of in the National League Central, but with two more series with the Cardinals, they needed to prove that they were capable of beating them.
You just had the feeling that this team was not going to suffer a four-game sweep at the hands of one of their greatest foes. With three games at the Cincinnati Reds on the horizon, the Pirates can go in with something to prove but also a little bit more confidence now that they have finally won a game.
It was a difficult series for the Pirates in St. Louis nonetheless. They lost via walk-off home runs in the first two games and simply did not play well on ESPN Wednesday nght in a 5-2 loss.
Thursday night was a different stories. The Pirates offense game to play as they routed the Cardinals 9-1. The offense was led by all of the usual suspects, Andrew McCutchen, Russell Martin, Pedro Alvarez and Josh Harrison, each of whom had multi-hit nights. Edinson Volquez continued his miraculous campaign for comeback player of the year with a complete game while only allowing six hits. If I told you back in March that the Pirates first complete game would come from Edinson Volquez, you would have never read anything from me again.
Baseball truly is the only sport where the seemingly impossible still always finds away to become possible. Whether it be Volquez’s complete game this season or Drew Sutton’s improbable walk-off winner in 2012, crazy things happen in baseball.
There is not much left to write about Volquez, he has truly proved his doubters wrong this season. Volquez is now 8-6 with a 3.68 ERA on the season, many fans before the season doubted that he would have anywhere near as good of a season. What a terrific job done by Ray Searage in successfully taking in another cast off pitcher and turning him around 180 degrees.
Thursday’s win brings the Pirates to within 3.5 games of the struggling Milwaukee Brewers who have lost five straight. The top for in the NL Central (Brewers, Cardinals, Reds and Pirates) all promise to continue jockeying for position as they prove to be one of the deepest divisions in baseball. The Pirates will head into the series with the Reds a game behind them for third place in the division.
Catch the Pirates at the Reds Friday night on Root Sports beginning at 7:00 p.m.