Charlie Morton had another strong start and Neil Walker hit a three-run homer as the Pirates beat the Brewers 5-2 Monday, collecting their 80th win. While it's not goal most of us are looking for, the Bucs' next win will mean they will snap their streak of losing seasons. Also, the Cardinals lost, so the Pirates took sole possession of first place yet again.
Anyway, Morton, as has become the norm, got a million grounders, while striking out six and walking two over seven innings. He gave up a run in the second on a double by Juan Francisco and a single by Logan Schafer, as well as an unearned run in the seventh when Pedro Alvarez flaked with two runners on and completely missed an easy throw from the outfield. But that was all, and Morton also helped himself by having a good game with the bat.
Clint Barmes led off the third with a single, moved up when Morton bunted him over, and came home on Jose Tabata's single. Then in the fifth, the Pirates picked up a run on the same sequence involving the same three players, except Barmes' hit was a double this time. But the bulk of the Pirates' offense came in the seventh, when Morton and Tabata singled and Walker smashed an Alfredo Figaro fastball to right center. Tony Watson and Mark Melancon pitched the last two innings without issue, and the Pirates had a relatively easy win.
Of course, I still couldn't get through it without gritting my teeth. The Brewers' announcers bent over backwards to praise the Pirates' acquisitions of Marlon Byrd and Justin Morneau, contrasting those trades with the Pirates' supposed lack of activity down the stretch in the previous two seasons and arguing that the Bucs were "learning their lesson after two years of standing pat."
Did the Wandy Rodriguez trade not happen? Did the Derrek Lee not happen? I'm happy with the Byrd acquisition too, but this notion that the Bucs haven't made deadline trades is just revisionist history. In fairness, the Brewers' announcers aren't the only ones saying this. Neal Huntington himself said something similar in a recent interview with Peter Gammons:
“In previous years,” Huntington says, “our system wasn’t developed and built enough to be able to make these deals. Now we are, and because we are we didn’t have to trade a Jameson Taillon or our top young players. But we have been able to build up an inventory in our system that allows to do these deals and hopefully get into the post-season.”
What were Robbie Grossman, Rudy Owens, Colton Cain, Aaron Baker, and the Pirates' 2013 compensation draft pick, if not inventory that the Pirates used to make deals for players who might help the Bucs get to the postseason? You could certainly make the case that Marlon Byrd is just better than any of the other veterans they've acquired at midseason, and that's probably true, but it's not true for Morneau, and Byrd can only be so helpful, since he was acquired in late August rather than late July.
Anyway, I've always wondered why many Pirates fans have never seemed to think the Wandy Rodriguez deal was a significant trade. If I recall correctly, there was a lot less hoopla for Rodriguez than, for example, for Morneau, even though Rodriguez was a much better player. It annoys me. In fact, it annoys me almost as much as Peter Gammons not being able to spell Andrew McCutchen, Neil Walker or Gerrit Cole's names right.