PHILADELPHIA, PA - JUNE 27: Josh Harrison #5 of the Pittsburgh Pirates throws to first base after putting out Jimmy Rollins #11 of the Philadelphia Phillies at Citizens Bank Park on June 27, 2012 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Harrison was unable to get the double play. (Photo by Drew Hallowell/Getty Images)
What a strange game. It looked like the Pirates were in for a bumpy ride when James McDonald had a terrible first inning, allowing solo homers to Carlos Ruiz and, before that, the just-activated Chase Utley. He had two walks in that first frame too.
They were in for a bumpy ride, but not in the way I'd imagined. The Pirates were on top before you knew it, smashing the Phillies' balsa-wood pitching arrangement. The Phillies turned to their mediocre bullpen to get through the game tonight, and the Pirates took full advantage. Michael McKenry -- somehow one of the Pirates' best sources of offense recently -- hit a three-run homer off Raul Valdes in the top of the second to put the Bucs up 3-2.
The Pirates piled on from there, with a solo homer by Casey McGehee in the fourth, followed by a two-out RBI single by McDonald later in the inning. In the fifth, the Bucs kept going, scoring three runs on a series of singles to make it 8-2.
It continued the next inning off Jared Hughes and then Tony Watson, thanks to some terrible Pirates defense. Hector Luna reached on a Pedro Alvarez error, then came home when Jimmy Rollins tripled. Then Juan Pierre singled. Then Utley singled to right when McGehee, who was covering first, for some reason didn't move when the ball was hit a couple yards to his right. Then Carlos Ruiz singled on a ball that Jose Tabata obviously lost track of; the Phillies' announcers pointed out that he was actually pretty lucky he knocked it down, because he didn't get in front of it, and it would have been a disaster if it had gotten past him. As it stood, only Pierre came home. There were still no outs at this point, and the Pirates called on Brad Lincoln -- who, put up a huge clutch performance, getting a strikeout, a fly out and a strikeout to hold the Pirates' lead at 8-7.
In the eighth, the Pirates finally put the game away, as Drew Sutton hit an RBI double and Andrew McCutchen blasted a two-run homer to right. McCutchen then made a great catch in the bottom of the eighth as Jason Grilli and then Joel Hanrahan finished out the game.
That was close. For the Pirates to have lost three straight games against the Phillies right before heading into a series against the Cardinals this weekend would have been a mess.