Pittsburgh Pirates Even Series Against The Atlanta Braves
By Marty Leap
On Wednesday night, the Pittsburgh Pirates evened their three-game series against the Atlanta Braves at one win apiece.
Following a 2 hour and 4 minute rain delay, the Pittsburgh Pirates and Atlanta Braves did battle at PNC Park on Wednesday night. Maybe he rain delay was a blessing in disguise? Because the Pirates cruised to victory.
The Pirates entered play on Wednesday night in desperate need of a victory. Entering the game the team owned a 4-11 record in their last 15 games. To their credit, the team hunkered down and picked up a much needed victory. Their 7-4 victory over the Braves improved the team to 29-31 on the season.
After suffering through a miserable month of May, Joe Musgrove was looking to bounce back for the Pirates. Looking like the pitcher that Pirate fans have come to know and love the past two seasons, Musgrove would get that bounce back outing.
After retiring the Braves in order in the 1st inning, Musgrove ran into trouble in the 2nd. Josh Donaldson doubled to start the inning and scored on a one-out single by Austin Riley. This gave Atlanta an early 1-0 lead. Musgrove would then settle in and take over the game.
The Pirates would quickly erase this Atlanta lead. Facing the struggling Kevin Gausman, the Pirate offense would have another big night.
Gregory Polanco singled with one out in the bottom of the 2nd inning, and with two outs Elias Diaz hit a 2-run home run to left field. The Bucco backstop’s first home run of the season gave the team a 2-1 lead.
With two outs in the inning Musgrove singled to left field. Musgrove’s hit was followed by back-to-back ringing singles to center field by Kevin Newman and Bryan Reynolds. The hit by Reynolds have him a 13 game hitting streak, which is the longest by a MLB rookie this season, and made the score 3-1 Pirates.
The score grew to 4-1 when Starling Marte ripped a single to left field to plate Newman. Josh Bell then got in on the fun with a double down the left field line. Bell’s double scored Reynolds, but on the play Marte was thrown out at the plate.
When the dust settled from the 2nd inning the Pirates led the Braves 5-1. Just as they did in Tuesday night’s loss, when they led 5-2 after 2 innings, the Pirates were able to jump out to a big early lead.
Colin Moran doubled to start the bottom of the 3rd inning and the Pirate offense was off and running again. Moran’s doubled was followed by one from Polanco. The 7th double of the season from Polanco made the score 6-1 Pirates.
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At this point, Musgrove had settled into a groove and was starting to cruise. Moran would add to the lead when he led off the bottom of the 5th inning with a home run. His 7th blast of the season extended the Pirate lead to 7-1.
After the 2nd inning, Musgrove was dominant. Between the the 3rd and 8th innings Musgrove would retire 14 batters in a row. After issuing a one-out walk in the 8th, he got Matt Joyce to hit into an inning ending double play.
Big Joe took the hill in the 9th looking for a complete game. After Ronald Acuna Jr. and Dansby Swanson hit back-to-back home runs to start the inning, Musgrove was lifted for Felipe Vazquez. In 8+ innings pitched, Musgrove allowed 3 runs on five hits, a walk, two home runs, and six strikeouts.
In the 9th inning Vazquez allowed a run on two hits. Despite this, he was able to slam the door shut while recording a strikeout. When it was all said and done the Pirates out hit the Braves 14-6, and picked up a 7-4 victory.
In the month of May the Pirates desperately needed Musgrove to step up, and he failed to do so. To kick off his June, he stepped up to the plate and then some.
Musgrove saw an increase in velocity, he had excellent control after the 2nd inning, and he became the first Pirate pitcher to pitch more than 7 innings in a start this season. Throughout his start he was efficient, pounded the strike zone, and appeared to be in total control.
The Musgrove that the Pirates got on Wednesday night is the pitcher they have come to expect from him. It is also the type of pitcher the team needs to see more regularly moving forward if they’re going to remain in the NL Wild Card race. Hopefully, Wednesday night was Musgrove getting back on track.
He also deserves a big tip of the cap for rising to the occasion. The Pirates have been in dire need of a starting pitcher stepping up and putting a foot down for a few weeks now. Musgrove did this and then some on Tuesday night. Tip of the cap to you, Big Joe.
The third and final game of the series is scheduled for 12:35 on Thursday afternoon. Chris Archer will look to build upon his strong outing last time out, while the Braves will send struggling righty Mike Foltynewicz (6.10 ERA, 6.67 FIP) to the mound.