What a difference a day makes. Gerrit Cole and Pedro Alvarez keyed a 7-1 blowout win over the Cardinals to even the series at one and send the Bucs back to Pittsburgh on a good note.
With one out in the second, Alvarez hit a ground-rule double. Two batters later, Lance Lynn intentionally walked Jordy Mercer to get to Cole, who singled up the middle to make it 1-0. The following inning, Justin Morneau hit a line drive single, and Alvarez brought him home with a blast to center.
In the fifth, Morneau and Byrd hit consecutive doubles to bring home a run. After Alvarez walked, the Cardinals turned to ground-ball specialist Seth Maness, who did get Russell Martin to hit a grounder. Unfortunately for Maness, it ended up in left field, and the Pirates had a 5-0 lead.
The Cardinals got their only run in the fifth, when Yadier Molina led off with a homer. Other than that, Cole was terrific, striking out five and walking one over six innings.
Byrd led off the seventh and hit an infield popup that David Freese misplayed, one of several poor Cardinals defensive efforts this afternoon. Byrd, much to his credit, raced all the way to second, and came home two batters later on Martin's sacrifice fly. Then, in the eighth, Starling Marte hit a solo homer off Shelby Miller.
At this point in the season, it's amazing how much one game can change things. If the Pirates had lost this one 7-1, playing defense the way the Cardinals did today, we'd be neck-deep in despair. (And we'd have to hear more of this kind of narrative-driven nonsense, the kind that frequently falls to pieces as soon as the next game is played. It would be hard to imagine a baseball team as lazy as so much sports analysis is.) Instead, the Bucs are heading home with the wind at their backs. I don't want to overestimate the importance of momentum here -- if nothing else, these last two games show what an overrated concept momentum is. But the series being tied 1-1 is important, not only because the Pirates just moved closer to taking the series themselves, but also because the fans in Pittsburgh are going to be motivated to insert themselves into Game 3, just as they did in the one-game series against the Reds.