In the first Sunday home game of the season in the yellow 1979 throwbacks, the Pirates obliterated the Brewers 9-3. While the score might not indicate that “obliterated” is the correct word to use there, this game never really seemed like there was any question about the Pirates winning. They blew up for five runs in the bottom of the third, getting a string of guys on base (the big sequence went Freese walk, Joyce single, Cervelli single, Polanco single, Harrison single, Mercer reaching on an error, Nicasio single!, and a Jaso single) and moving guys station-to-station around the bases:
I said this on Twitter earlier, but this is the type of inning I’m imagining the front office and Clint Hurdle dreamed of when they assembled this lineup. Guys coming up and just continuously getting hits, moving guys around the bases, and sucking the life out of the opposing pitcher. Preceding the big inning, the Pirates did manage to force the Brewers’ starter, Davies, to throw 27 pitches in the first, which has been a hallmark of the Bucs’ collective strategy at the plate this year. The fruits of this labor are starting to become apparent in innings like this.
With everyone contributing so equally, there’s no one particular player to single out for their merits this game. McCutchen is worth mentioning because he had his second home run in as many games, which is a really great sign, and this one was crushed.
Not to be a downer, but other than this homer, Cutch had a relatively tough game. He left eight guys on base, coming up with the bases loaded twice and not driving anyone in. The homer is nice, but getting involved in the hitting outside of that will be key for this squad. Hitting homers will be helpful, though, and I’m not worried about McCutchen by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s just something to watch.
It was also nice to see late-inning “defensive replacement” Sean Rodriguez get into the offensive act as well, bashing a 442-foot two run homer into the third level of the left field rotunda. This is the fourteenth longest homer of the season according to Statcast, which is quite impressive. The quotes used around “defensive replacement” have dual meaning, pointing to both Sean Rodriguez’s offensive contribution today and John Jaso’s stellar defense over at first base, including this awesome over-the-shoulder grab and throw home:
Continued play like this by Jaso might obviate the need for a late-inning defensive replacement.
On the flip side of the field, Nicasio had an interesting start. He cruised through a perfect first three innings, but ran into a lot of trouble, giving up a handful of walks and hits. He managed to limit the damage to only three runs, though, and finished two more innings after the fourth to get a quality start and a win in the game. Outside of the fourth inning, Nicasio pitched pretty well, getting 6 strikeouts and only giving up two walks. I suspect that the tough inning he had was a product of Nicasio being on the bench (and after his single that the Brewers hilariously botched, on the bases) for a really long time during a long bottom of the third inning between the Pirates’ long at-bats, a string of hits, and a pitching change by the Brewers. Getting starts like this from Nicasio will be big for the Pirates until some cavalry shows up later in the season from AAA or trades.
This was a big weekend for the Pirates, as they gained a game on the Cubs, who dropped two of three to the Rockies. It’s never too early to be looking at the standings. On deck this week is an off day tomorrow, followed by a ten game west coast road trip in San Diego, Arizona, and Colorado. These teams are not that good and the Pirates dominated the NL West last year, going 27-6 against those squads, so hopefully that can continue this year.