Winning is the best retribution.
The Arizona Diamondbacks played an outsized role in the Pirates' 2014 season. Their gratuitous, machismo-infused retaliation for Ernesto Frieri's accidental breaking of Paul Goldschmidt's wrist disabled Andrew McCutchen at a crucial time late in the season. The Pirates answered this weekend in the most satisfying way, completing a sweep of their three-game series with an 8-0 victory.
Combined with two hard-earned victories to even up their series with the Cubs, the Bucs have now quietly put together a five-game winning streak on the strength of dominant starting pitching, reliable relief pitching, and timely hitting. They now carry momentum into their upcoming series with their two most formidable rivals in the NL Central, the Cubs and Cardinals.
Francisco Liriano continued the Pirates' recent string of great starting pitching with six and a third shutout innings, surrendering only two hits. He struggled early with his control and issued four walks in the first three innings, but he was aided by a great throw from Starling Marte to throw out Ender Inciarte at second in the first inning and a pickoff of Jordan Pacheco by catcher Chris Stewart in the second. He settled down thereafter, finishing with seven strikeouts. Tiring in the seventh with the Bucs up 4-0, Liriano issued two more walks before departing with 109 pitches. Jared Hughes needed just two more pitches to extricate the Pirates from that threat, inducing a ground ball from Aaron Hill for an inning-ending double play.
The hitting stars for the Pirates today were Neil Walker, Pedro Alvarez, and Gregory Polanco. Although Walker popped up with the bases loaded and no out in the top of the first, Alvarez brought in two runs after a strikeout by Starling Marte with a clutch single on a 3-2 changeup from Arizona starter Jeremy Hellickson, giving the Bucs and Liriano an early 2-0 lead.
Walker atoned in the fourth with a one-out double to drive in Polanco and McCutchen and put the Bucs ahead 4-0. It was his eighth double of the year and fourth in the Arizona series. Polanco, looking increasingly comfortable, and downright dangerous, at the plate, ended the day with three hits. With the single that put him on first for Walker, McCutchen, who had walked his first two times at bat, ended an 0-for-16 stretch. In his final two at-bats, he flew out deep to center field. He has hit several deep flies in recent at-bats that he just missed, that were knocked back by wind, or that landed in the deepest part of stadiums. It seems that a breakout for Cutch is coming soon.
The Pirates put the game completely out of reach with an insurance run in the eighth and three more in the ninth. The last of five pitchers on the mound for the Diamondbacks was Randall Delgado, the perpetrator of the retaliation pitch that hit McCutchen in the back last year. Sean Rodriguez greeted him with a single that drove in the final run in this weekend's drubbing of the Snakes.