PITTSBURGH (93-7 The FAN) — Call me the eternal optimist, but Tuesday night’s walk-off victory for the Pirates is the type of win that can vault a team on a hot streak.
Time will tell if that’s indeed what the dramatic ninth-inning victory will do, but it sure had all the symptoms.
Let’s start with the obvious.
The Buccos took the lowest of lows and somehow turned it into the highest of highs. After Neil Walker grabbed a 3-2 lead with a sac fly to set up Joel Hanrahan for the save, The Hammer blew his opportunity and surrendered a two-run homer to Adam LaRoche.
It was just the fifth blown save in his last 50 chances. No doubt, it came as a shock to everyone in the dugout and watching as fans.
But the Bucs weren’t deterred. Alex Presley earned a pinch-hit single and, with two outs and Presley at third, Barajas belted his first homer of the season over the left field wall for the win.
Back track for a second — Barajas hit his first home run of the season. It was his first big moment in a Pirates uniform and one that lifted a lot of pressure off his shoulders, both personally and from the fans.
“It’s not what you want as a player,” Barajas said after the game, commenting on the boos he heard during each at-bat Tuesday night before his walk-off. “If they’re booing you, that means that you’re struggling. I’d love to be doing better. I’m going to work, I’m going to try hard to improve.”
Andrew McCutchen also hit his first homer of the season. Confidence hasn’t been an issue for him this season, but power has. So has his health. It looked like everything came together Tuesday night.
Garrett Jones smashed a homer out of the park as well, which was the first three-homer game for the Pirates in some time. In fact, those three home runs represent one-sixth of the team home run total heading into Tuesday night (18).
Oh, and don’t forget about that pitching performance. Pirates starter A.J. Burnett followed up one of the worst pitching performances in Buccos history — easily the worst outing I’ve ever seen — with a 10-strikeout night.
Burnett allowed just two earned runs on six hits, pitching eight strong innings. Looking at what happened to Hanrahan, you could probably argue a complete game for Burnett was the best option. He was very strong.
And back to that game-winning homer. Anyone who watched the game saw Barajas round third and run to home plate, backed by his teammates all holding up a ‘Z’ with their hands. Barajas did it, too.
It’s from one of the more stupid movies ever: “Dude Where’s My Car?”
Stupid? Yes. But, to me, things like that are huge for teams to be successful. You see it when the Texas Rangers reach base, looking back to the dugout and doing an air high five. You see it all around Major League Baseball.
Things like that can give us all insight into how close a clubhouse might or might not be. It’s still early in the season, but it appears the Buccos are a pretty tight-knit group.
Again, early in the season it’s easy to be optimistic — especially after a walk-off win. But I think Tuesday night is something the Pirates can build off of.
It’s a win in the first game of the series, meaning the Bucs have every opportunity to win this series. Following the Nationals is a three-game series against the very beatable Astros.
Take two out of three in each series and the Pirates will be right around .500 heading into a road swing against Miami, Washington and Detroit.
Nothing’s guaranteed, but Tuesday night could be a night we look back on as a turning point in the season.
Chris Gates | Bucs Blog