OK, the Pirates tried leading off the first with back-to-back walks, no luck. A lead-off single in the second, less luck. A walk and double to start the third inning - bingo, two run single. Andy LaRoche got thrown out at second with no outs, but hey, he did his job. About time someone did!
It was even a better start to the fourth; Lastings Milledge, who lost a homer to the rain in Chicago yesterday, took a two-strike curveball yard.
It stayed that way until the seventh, when Daniel McCutchen made his only mistake. He hung a change-up to Wladimir Balentien (try typing that!) and he drilled it far into the night.
That was it for McCutchen, who had another strong outing, going 6-1/3 innings, giving up a run on four hits, with two walks and five strikeouts. McC's pitch count was at 96 (64 were strikes), so it was his last inning no matter what.
Jesse Chavez got the last two outs. LaRoche added a little excitement with a two-out single, but was caught again trying to stretch it. At least there were two away this time, the textbook opportunity to push the envelope and try to get into scoring position.
Joel Hanrahan pitched a clean eighth frame. Matt Capps came on to close the game, and brought home the bacon for his 27th save. And hey, it was Daniel McCutchen's first MLB win, too.
As an added bonus, the victory guarantees that Pittsburgh will not suffer the ignominy of 100 losses. JR may be an eccentric strategist, but give him his due - he kept his team playing when it would have been easy to lose them.
The Pirates recent streak is a nice finish to a dismal season, keyed by some strong pitching. But the Bucs again demonstrated their need for some ooomph at the plate next year.
Andrew McCutchen and Andy LaRoche are teaming up nicely at the top of the order; Garrett Jones and Ryan Doumit may or may not be a pair of middle-of-the-order building blocks. Even if they do pan out, the Bucs need a clean-up bat next year.
Could mid-June be Pedro time?