Last night was almost a perfect example of why the Pittsburgh Pirates have been successful this year.
The only thing lacking exceptional starting pitching. Jeff Locke allowed four runs on 10 hits in four innings. It was the first time he allowed more than three runs in a game since April. While it was a poor start, if you look back at the first inning when the Cardinals scored two runs, Locke was making good pitches and the St. Louis hitters were doing a better job of hitting.
Aside from an unusual poor showing from the starting pitching, the rest of the Pirates' strengths were showcased in the win. The bullpen had a tall order and responded with five shutout innings. The team was very resilient, coming back from multiple deficits throughout the game. Finally, the team got some timely hitting.
That last part is really the key. When the Pirates are losing games and struggling, it's because they make they can't get critical hits when they need them. When they're rolling, like they are right now, they get big hits from just about every spot in the lineup.
Last night's hero was Neil Walker. He has had a rough 2013. His power lately has been non-existent. But last night he went deep early in the game, got a clutch hit in the eighth inning, made a smart base running play to get to second on a fly ball to left field and then scored on a Russell Martin single.
The best part of last night's game, aside from being the fourth in a row against the Cardinals, was that they did it in front of a national audience on ESPN.
Living outside of Pittsburgh, you hear a lot of media and sports fans talking about the Pirates and thinking they're lucky. You hear nationally recognized sports talk show hosts claim that the Pirates were in trouble and needed a closer with Jason Grilli down, never mentioning Mark Melancon. So it was nice to have the team step up to the national stage and give the Zoltan to all these doubters and ignoramouses.
While this series against the Cardinals will be considered a great success no matter the outcome tonight, October is still a long way to go. If the team keeps playing like it did last night, only with better starting pitching, there will be playoff baseball in Pittsburgh. But after the past two seasons, Pirates fans and the team cannot get ahead of themselves. They all need to eat, breath and live the most annoying cliche of all time. They need to just focus on one game at a time until there is that little x or z by their name in the standings.