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Pirates Offense Crushes Astros As Feel-Good Summer Continues

There were so many noteworthy things about this 11-2 win -- James McDonald struggling in the early innings, J.D. Martinez having a Cedeno-grade brain fart in failing to tag up from second, a couple excellent defensive plays by Casey McGehee, Jared Hughes responding to an HBP of Michael McKenry by hitting Brian Bogusevic with his first pitch and then nearly hitting Martinez with his second, Garrett Jones getting an infield single for his first hit off a lefty pitcher this year, four-hit nights for Jones and Andrew McCutchen.

But all those were buried beneath the weight of the fourth and fifth innings. After three and a half innings, McDonald had walked five batters (one intentionally), and Jordan Lyles was breezing through the Pirates' order. If you'd told me then that the game would end with a score of 11-2, I would not have guessed the Pirates would be on the right side of things. But in the fourth, Lyles started making bad pitches, and the Pirates took advantage, starting with McCutchen's single and continuing with back-to-back shots by Jones and Neil Walker, both of which, remarkably, managed to hit the right-field foul pole. Then McGehee doubled to right field as well, as if he, Jones, Walker and Lyles were all involved in some sort of conspiracy to get the Clemente Wall as much TV time as possible. (If I remember correctly, McKenry hit a deep foul ball near the wall that inning as well.) Clint Barmes knocked in McGehee with a single to put the Pirates up 4-1 that inning.

The Pirates then started the bottom of the fifth with three extra-base hits, and then a walk, and then another extra-base hit. It felt like it could go on forever, and it might have, if McGehee hadn't taken a questionable risk and gotten himself thrown out at third. Still, the Pirates scored four more and had what they needed, and just in case, they tacked on a run with a series of singles in the sixth, then two more on Walker's double in the eighth.

And so the PNC Park crowd got to enjoy the last several innings in that giddy, ridiculous state where there's almost no chance of losing, and you can just watch and enjoy the evening, with little reason for concern. It's probably not a feeling most of the PNC Park crowd is used to.

The Bucs themselves seem to be enjoying it, too. As Andrew McCutchen walked to the plate in the eighth, the fans greeted him with chants of, "MVP! MVP!" He singled for his fourth hit of the night, then smiled broadly as he stood at first base. It was hard not to smile with him, for him. After all, he really might end up a legitimate MVP candidate when all is said and done, and his team is within a half-game of first place and playing brilliantly. It would be a terrible waste not to enjoy it.