Edinson Volquez pitched a complete game as the Pirates crushed the Cardinals Thursday, 9-1. After a series that featured two walk-off losses, it's nice to have an easy game that prevents the bullpen from getting involved.
The game was tied at one in the fifth when Jordy Mercer walked and moved up on a sacrifice. Gregory Polanco then walked, and Mercer moved up on a fly ball. Andrew McCutchen brought Mercer home on a single, and then Neil Walker plated two more runners on a double that got past Oscar Taveras in right field.
Tyler Lyons took over for Shelby Miller in the sixth, and the Pirates' offense didn't let up. Well, it sort of did, but the scoring didn't. Pedro Alvarez hit an infield single, then moved up to second as Mercer reached on Lyons' throwing error. Then Volquez bunted, and in a very strange play, Matt Carpenter let the bunt drop and threw to second. No one was covering second, though, and the ball headed to the outfield. Jon Jay, in a heads-up play, came in to get the ball and forced Mercer out at second before anyone could figure out what was going on. Gregory Polanco then walked, which meant, as Rob Biertempfel pointed out, that the Pirates had loaded the bases without hitting the ball out of the infield, and with Jon Jay as the only guy to record an out.
Anyway, then Josh Harrison, surely grateful for a bases-loaded opportunity against a mediocre lefty like Lyons, knocked a ground-rule double to bring home two runners. Two more runners came home on a passed ball and then a sacrifice fly. The Pirates were well on their way to a blowout at that point, but Russell Martin tacked on a solo homer in the ninth for good measure.
Volquez, meanwhile, was terrific, throwing 114 pitches and striking out five while walking two. He allowed six hits, all singles, and didn't give the Cardinals much of a chance as the Pirates pounded away in the middle innings.
The Brewers and Reds also lost, so the Pirates gained a game on all three of their top divisional competitors. They're now 3.5 games out of first. The victory also moved the Pirates into positive Pythagorean territory, with 377 runs scored and 376 runs allowed.