Despite trailing early on in each game of their three game set with the San Diego Padres, the Pittsburgh Pirates showed a never say never attitude throughout the entire series, something this team has done all season long. With the win, the Pirates picked up their fourth consecutive comeback victory and 22nd comeback victory of the season. The Bucs were also able to pick up their major league leading 10th series sweep of the season, following some late inning heroics from a duo of left-handed bats.
Following the epic walkoff RBI single from Pedro Alvarez in the bottom of the ninth inning on Monday night, Gregory Polanco proved that not all heroes wear capes. After captivating the PNC Park crowd with a game-winning RBI triple in the eighth inning on Tuesday night, Polanco did more of the same last night. With two outs and the game tied at two in the bottom of the eighth inning, newly re-acquired first baseman, and 2014 NLCS hero, Travis Ishikawa drew a full count walk against Padres starter Andrew Cashner. With Ishikawa on first base, Polanco did the rest, driving a clutch line drive off of the Roberto Clemente wall in right field to give the Pirates the 3-2 lead.


This only opened up the flood gates, as the Pirates provided plenty of breathing room going into the ninth inning. Polanco would later score on an RBI single from Andrew McCutchen, who pushed his career best hitting streak to 15 games with the late inning base knock.
Jung Ho Kang would also join in on the hit party, singling to left field to drive in Neil Walker, who walked earlier in the inning, to give the Pirates a 5-2 lead. That was all the Pirates would need as Antonio Bastardo would shut the door and earn his first save of 2015.
The most impressive part about this entire series might have been the resiliency of the Pirates starting pitchers. In game one on Monday night, AJ Burnett surrendered a run early, but settled down after that. Despite not getting much support on offense, Burnett was stellar on the same night that he was named an All-Star for the first time in his long career. The Bucs would eventually get to Padres ace James Shields and catch a break, scoring their first run in the seventh inning on a throwing error by Padres third baseman Yangervis Solarte.
Though Burnett would pick up a no-decision in the game and get cheated of an inning ending strkeout on a “foul tip” call from home plate umpire Paul Emmel in the eighth inning, he refused to be negatively phased. In 7.2 innings, the first time All-Star struck out four batters and gave up one run, maintaining one of the lowest ERA’s in baseball at 1.99.
It was the same story on Tuesday night with Francisco Liriano, who gave up two runs after the game was delayed due to harsh weather that prompted Andrew McCutchen, Sean Rodriguez and other Pirates players to help battle the almighty tarp monster.
The Bucs were able to come back to tie up the game and eventually pick up the win, but like Burnett, Liriano didn’t let being behind in the game effect his performance. He lowered his ERA to 2.99 after pitching six solid innings, allowing two runs on four hits and striking out six batters.
After what we saw from the Pirates number two and three starters in game one and two in the series, were we expecting anything else from Charlie Morton last night? Despite giving up two runs in the first two innings of the ball game, “Ground Chuck” pitched six solid innings, while his team trailed. Despite the four walks, Morton was able to get ground ball outs when he needed to, strike out five batters, and do what he had to in order to give his team a chance to win.
The fact of the matter is that this Padres series proved three things to me. First is that the Pirates pitching staff is as resilient and confident as they have been all season long. Pitchers will go through their ups and downs throughout the season, we all know that, but this group has stayed focus on the task at hand. They consistently forget about the struggles they may have had in their previous start and just get the job done, plain and simple.
Secondly, the Pirates offense has proved that they are capable of scoring runs in clutch situations. Alvarez and Polanco, who have both had their fair share of struggles this season, stepped up in some big time situations in this series. This offense will need to continue finding ways to score runs and come up big when it matters most, especially with Josh Harrison out for an extended period of time and Starling Marte currently out of the lineup.
The third and final thing the Pirates have proven to me, not just in this series but in the last couple, is that they CAN beat good teams. A sweep of the Detroit Tigers, two out of three from the Cleveland Indians and a sweep of the Padres in their last nine games. That’s a pretty great stretch of baseball if you ask me. Those are three teams, despite their records, who have an abundance of talent in their respective lineups and in their rotations. The Pirates have done what they have had to do against teams that they should beat, and have played stellar ball against good teams as well. They aren’t going to win every game they play against contending teams and I’m sure they’ll lose their fair share of games to teams that are not looking poised to make it into the postseason. I understand that the series against the Nationals was a bummer, but at the end of the day, we all have to realize that this Pirates team, the team with the second best record in all of baseball, is pretty good.


The Pirates now look ahead to arguably the biggest and most important series of the first half of the season. There is only one other team in Major League Baseball that has more wins than the Pirates, and as we all know, they happen to be our division rivals. The St Louis Cardinals are in town for a four game weekend series that starts tonight at PNC Park, with Jeff Locke taking the hill against Carlos Martinez. While the Pirates come in having won five games in a row and eight of their last nine, the Cardinals are coming off of a series split with the Chicago Cubs. The Pirates also come into the series trailing St Louis by only 4.5 games in the National League Central race, a deficit that doesn’t seem so big, considering how good the Cardinals have been this season. As impressive as the Pirates have been in the last month and a half, the Cardinals have continuously matched them. When Pittsburgh would win, St Louis would win. It has been a recurring trend that Pirates fans have been way too familiar with. However, this series brings a bit of a bright side for the Buccos. It provides them with a golden opportunity. The best way to gain ground in the division is to win ball games, and I’ve got a feeling the Pirates have a decent shot to do so this weekend. With Locke pitching tonight and Cole, Burnett, and Liriano expected to pitch the final three games of the series, this team has a chance to do some damage against the first place Cardinals. Damage that could make that deficit in the division seem even smaller.

Some people may question how the Pirates are going to outscore the Cardinals without two of their best offensive weapons, or how they are going to outpitch the stellar pitching staff that St Louis possesses. I think the Cardinals have played well enough that those questions may be warranted. Some may even ask, “Are the Pittsburgh Pirates ready for the best team in baseball?” Well, with Pittsburgh finding ways to consistently win ball games as of late and the Cardinals stumbling a bit coming into the All-Star break; I think some may be asking the wrong question. The real question might actually be, “Is the best team in baseball ready for the Pittsburgh Pirates?”

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