PHOENIX, AZ - APRIL 18: Aaron Hill #2 of the Arizona Diamondbacks drops the ball while attempting to turn a double play against the Pittsburgh Pirates at Chase Field on April 18, 2012 in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images)
Aaaand Juan Cruz now leads the Pirates in saves, because that's just how this team works. We spend half of the first two weeks talking about closer usage, and then Clint Hurdle bends over backwards to get his closer saves when he shouldn't, and then some minor-league free agent ends up taking the lead in that category when Joel Hanrahan misses two days.
Similarly, Pedro Alvarez, the guy who has spent most of the year looking less like a major leaguer than anyone I've ever seen in a Pirates uniform, tied for the Pirates team lead in home runs today when he hit a solo shot in the seventh to tie the game at one. Daniel Hudson threw a thigh-high meatball, and Alvarez sent a line drive over the wall in right. That was Alvarez's second hit of the year, and his second homer. As someone pointed out in the comments, he has no hits on balls in play. (He also walked today, drawing a 3-and-0 count in the fifth before eventually taking ball four; he got in a 2-and-0 count before hitting the homer too. For him, that's a big deal.)
James McDonald threw 78 pitches through four and had to be replaced by Brad Lincoln, but McDonald only allowed one run (on a triple by Willie Bloomquist and a single by Jason Kubel in the first), and Lincoln, fresh up from Indianapolis, pitched three scoreless innings of his own. Lincoln struck out four, and he certainly got the job done, but it wasn't always pretty -- he gave up a triple to Aaron Hill to lead off the sixth, but struck out Kubel and got Ryan Roberts to ground into a double play to get out of it. He walked two batters in the seventh.
The Bucs took the lead in the eighth when Clint Barmes started a two-out rally with a single (these two-out rallies also seem to have become a theme in this strange season) and Andrew McCutchen followed with a single of his own. Neil Walker then hit a dying quail to bring Barmes home. After that came Chris Resop (who somehow didn't pitch yesterday) and Cruz, who protected the lead.
So: The brutal West Coast trip is now over, and the Pirates are 5-7. It could be better, but it could also be a lot worse.