The Pittsburgh Pirates are now 6-3 in their last 9 games
Some times during the case of a Major League Baseball season a team will go on a long road trip and, before the trip even begins, you know it will not go well. That is how I felt when the Pittsburgh Pirates embarked on their current 11 game in 11 days road trip. After the trip got off to a poor start on Thursday night, the team bounced back on Friday. Hopefully, Friday, not Thursday, will be a sign of things to come on this trip.
Following a 2-1 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals, the Pirates are now 1-1 on their current road trip. This victory also got the team back over .500 on the season at 18-17. It was also their first victory of the season over those evil, rotten, no good, black devil magic using Cardinals.
Just as they did in Thursday night’s loss, the Pirates scored first on Friday night. Also in identical fashion to Thursday night, this lead came via a 1st inning home run. Adam Frazier led the game off with his 2nd home rune of the season, giving the Bucs a quick 1-0 lead.
Trevor Williams started for the Pirates and looked like a man on a mission. His mission was to put a foot down after back-to-back bad losses by the Pirates. Williams would go on to absolutely pitch his ass off on Friday night.
In the 1st inning the Cardinals loaded the bases with two outs off of Williams, however, he rallied by striking out Yadier Molina to end the inning. This was an impressive feat as Molina entered the game as the toughest hitter in the National League to strikeout.
Then in the 4th inning, poor defense put Williams in a tough spot. A throwing error by Melky Cabrera, that should have been ruled a fielding error by Cole Tucker, and a fielding error by Tucker on back-to-back hitters put Cardinal base runners on the corners with just one out.
After Adam Wainwright laid down a sacrifice bunt, Matt Carpenter stepped to the plate looking to give the Cardinals the lead. In a battle of two of the NL’s best, Williams got the better of the Cardinal slugger by striking Carpenter out when he chased a high fastball.
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Wainwright’s bunt was the start of Williams settling in. After dealing with RISP in each of the first 4 innings, the sacrifice bunt was the start of 9 consecutive batters retired by Williams. This streak ended when Yairo Munoz reached on an infield hit on a ball Williams bobbled, he then allowed a two-out bloop single to Paul Goldschmidt.
Paul DeJong then got the luckiest hit he will get all season. He reached on an infield hit that was hit so softly (just 58.5 MPH) that Frazier could not get there in time to throw DeJong out. Williams then retired Marcell Ozuna to end the inning and his night.
In 7 innings of work Williams allowed just the single run on nine hits, a walk, and five strikeouts. This lowered his ERA on the season to 3.42 and his FIP to 3.15.
I would argue that this was the best start of Williams career. The team was in desperate need of innings and for someone to put a foot down. Combine this with the fact Williams threw 30 pitches in the 1st inning, and he still settled in and pitched a gem for the Pirates.
On Friday night Williams did what big time starting pitchers do. He rose to the occasion, put a foot down, and carried his team. It was a performance that was reminiscent of a former Pirate starting pitcher that also wore number 34.
Williams also benefited from an increase in velocity. In the first inning he threw a pitch to Jose Martinez at 96.1 MPH, which was his hardest thrown pitch of the season. He hit 95 MPH multiple times in his outing. For the night, his fastball averaged 93.2 MPH a nearly 2 MPH increase over his season average on his fastball (91.4 MPH).
After the Cardinals tied the game, the Pirate offense set up shop against Andrew Miller.
Cole Tucker singled to start the inning and then went to third when Kevin Newman recorded a pinch hit single. Newman’s single came on a great hit and run call by Clint Hurdle, which went against his norm of sacrifice bunting in that situation. Remember friends, you never, ever sacrifice bunt with position players.
Marte followed Newman’s single with one of his own. This hit gave the Bucs a 2-1 lead, and kept the team in business. However, Cabrera would then hit into an inning ending 4-6-3 double play.
It looked like the Pirates failing to capitalize further in the top half of the 8th inning would burn them in the bottom half of the inning. A walk and a single gave the Cardinals runners on the corners with no one out. However, it was then Kyle Crick‘s turn to put a foot down.
First, Crick struck out Dexter Fowler swinging for the first out of the inning. This brought Pirate killer Kolten Wong to the plate. Crick got Wong to hit into a 6-3 double play that saw Tucker make a fantastic play to field the ball while keep a foot on the second base bag before firing a bullet to first base to end the inning.
On the play, Crick also made a great play by not making a play. At first, it appeared he would attempt to field Wong’s ball. But he made the right decision to pull his glove back and let it go. Had he touched, the Pirates may not have even gotten one out let alone two.
Facing Jordan Hicks, the Pirates had an opportunity to add to their lead in the top of the 9th.
Josh Bell reached on an infield hit to start the inning, Colin Moran walked with one out, and the Pirates were setting up shop. However, the hard throwing Hicks would bounce back. He struck out Cervelli and got Tucker to ground out to end the inning, keeping the score at 2-1 Pirates. It also made the Pirates just 1-for-6 with RISP for the night.
In the bottom of the 9th inning, it was Felipe Vazquez time. Vazquez did his thing retiring the Cardinals in order. This included striking out Goldschmidt swinging on three pitches to end the game.
Friday night’s victory was one of the biggest of the early season for the Pirates. After back-to-back brutal losses, the team was in need of a feel good win. They got just that.
This win also improves the Pirates record to 2-2 to start this vital 13 games in 13 days stretch. It also continued a trend this season for the Pirates. Entering this game 64.7% of their games this season had been decided by 2 runs or less. Following Friday night’s game, this number is now 65.7%.
The third game of this series is scheduled for 2:15 on Saturday afternoon. Jordan Lyles (2.20 ERA, 3.65 FIP) will make the start for the Pirates, and will be looking to put a foot down and end this three game skid. The Cardinals will counter with righty Miles Mikolas (4.02 ERA, 4.92 FIP).