For seven and a half innings, Pedro Alvarez and the Pirates played sloppy, mediocre baseball perhaps befitting an organization that had enjoyed a champagne celebration hours before. But in the eighth, Alvarez's three-run homer turned the game around and led the Bucs to a 5-4 win and a four-game sweep in Denver. Alvarez's defense this afternoon showed why he's such a frustrating player, but as he sometimes does, he more than made up for it with one swing of the bat.
The Pirates did get on the board in the first, as Jaff Decker walked, Andrew McCutchen singled, and Starilng Marte (who loves Coors Field like a shark loves blood) hit a line-drive single to left. The Rockies took a 2-1 lead in the third, though, when Jeff Locke walked pitcher Chad Bettis, then allowed a single to Corey Dickerson and a two-run double to Nolan Arenado, who grounded a ball into the gap in left center.
Josh Harrison led off the fifth with a double, and Decker followed grounded a game-tying single up the middle. In the bottom of the inning, though, some poor fielding by Alvarez led to a base hit by Dickerson, who then came around to score on Cristhian Adames' triple to right. In the sixth, the Rockies went up by two as Kyle Parker singled, stole second and came home as Alvarez struggled to field a bouncer by Ben Paulsen.
Joe Blanton and Decker, meanwhile, committed errors in the seventh. Neither ended up costing the Pirates a run, thanks in part to Chris Stewart throwing out Adames trying to steal second. But at that point in the game, it felt like the Bucs just didn't have it today, like they were either still celebrating or had their minds on their day game in Chicago tomorrow.
The ways baseball games feel to outside observers often turns out to be wrong, however. In the eighth, Marte singled with one out. (There he was again -- Marte had his second four-hit game of the series this afternoon, and he finishes this series an amazing 13-for-22.) Then Jordy Mercer singled, and Alvarez came to the plate with two outs and belted a 97-MPH fastball for a line-drive home run. That made it 5-4 Pirates, and all of a sudden Alvarez's afternoon, and that of the Bucs, completely changed. Alvarez tooketh away, and Alvarez gaveth. Antonio Bastardo pitched a 1-2-3 eighth, and Mark Melancon pitched the ninth for his 50th (!) save.
With their 93rd win, their sixth in a row, the Bucs are now 3.5 games back of the Cardinals, who face Milwaukee tonight. The Cubs are off today, so the Pirates will gain a half game on them.