First, a word on the transactions that took place shortly before the game, which I missed because I was at work. The Pirates placed Jason Grilli on the disabled list, which of course is no real surprise, and promoted Vic Black. Black should be exciting to see. It's bizarre that the Pirates didn't use him given an obvious opportunity tonight with a four-run lead in the ninth, instead turning to Mark Melancon. Remember when Melancon's workload was such a huge issue?
They also activated Neil Walker and designated Brandon Inge for assignment. I've been, I think, reasonably restrained in my criticism of the Pirates for keeping Inge around so long. Inge's issues as a player were so obvious that it's not as if the Pirates couldn't see them. And while you don't want to waste a roster spot, Inge wasn't an important player. So, whatever -- maybe he gave championship-caliber backrubs or something. Maybe his Backrubs Exceeding Replacement Player (BERP) was, like, 4.3. He had to have been contributing something, and one thing I've learned in the past couple years is that, while chemistry is just about impossible to measure from the outside, and while no outsider who mentions it has any idea what they're talking about, big-league teams clearly do think it matters. And if we're just talking about a bench spot, maybe it's better to just lay off the criticism, because it's not as if the Pirates didn't realize he stunk. Anyway, whatever off-the-field stuff Inge was contributing, the Pirates finally came to the conclusion that it didn't outweigh his awful play, so now he's gone.
Anyway, the Pirates won 5-1, led by a great outing from Gerrit Cole, who struck out four, walked one and generally looked excellent over seven innings and 92 pitches. The Pirates got three runs in the second on a couple singles, a walk, an RBI force attempt, a costly error by Anthony Rendon, and a single by Cole. In the bottom of the inning, Cole got a nice boost on a great leaping catch by Starling Marte, who's struggling at the plate (he went 0-for-5 today) but still playing very good defense.
Wilson Ramos homered to lead off the third for the Nats, but Cole held steady from there. In the eighth, Pedro Alvarez hit a line-drive, opposite-field homer off Taylor Jordan, and Russell Martin singled. Martin then stole second, advanced to third on an error, and came home on a pinch-hit double by Gaby Sanchez.
The Pirates moved back to 20 games above .500 with the victory. They also helped establish more breathing room between themselves and the Nationals in the Wild Card race. The Bucs are currently very safe in that area, obviously, but the Nats are one of the more dangerous teams still on the periphery, and the Pirates are really hurting them.