A War of Position
The Pirates executed their offensive plan perfectly again Saturday night. Although they failed to take command of the game early, the slow accretion of offensive pressure eventually forced the Reds into a weakened position. The Pirates were then able to break through, pull away and win their sixth game in a row.
By the end of the fourth, Reds' starter, Alfredo Simon, had thrown 91 pitches and walked four. The Pirates placed runners in scoring position in three of the first four innings, and eight of the first 20 hitters had worked full counts.
However, even with all the indicators pointed in the right direction, the Pirates were clinging to a 1-0 lead because they had left seven men on base. In the top half of the fifth, the lead was erased when Billy Hamilton scored on Zack Cozart's double down the left field line.
But the Pirates' offense is most suited for wearing down resistance, not suddenly overwhelming it. Missed opportunities aren't viewed as lost opportunities; rather, they create future ones. By applying steady pressure, the Pirates hope to force the opposition into a vulnerable stance. To use the terminology of communist theorist, Antonio Gramsci, the Pirates are better equipped to fight Wars of Position rather than a Wars of Maneuver.
A War of Maneuver is a classical approach to warfare and revolution. It relies on direct confrontation, and involves quickly and decisively deploying devastating forces of insurrection against class enemies. On the other hand, a War of Position is a drawn out affair, where the power of the ruling class is undermined via cultural struggle. Proletarians bring about successful revolution by slowly "winning over" civil society and gradually eroding the ideological superstructure that supports the social/political distribution of power.
The Pirates' offense is not an overpowering force. The lineup isn't stacked with home run hitters. Instead, it is designed to wear down the opposition by running up pitch counts, filling the bases and applying constant pressure. The persistent repetition of grinding plate appearances weakens the opponent and causes cracks in their resistance to appear. On Saturday night the Pirates' steadily chipped away at the Reds defenses and their War of Position offense was on full display.
Offense eventually breaks through
With the score tied 1-1 in the bottom of the fifth, Bryan Price tried to get one more inning out of Simon. Price's decision was no doubt influenced by the lack of good choices in his bullpen. It was made more difficult because Simon had already thrown 91 pitches and the Pirates were showing every indication of breaking through.
Showing signs fatigue and facing the Pirates' lineup for the third time, Simon promptly allowed the first three men to get on base and a run to score. Price's hand was now forced, and he had no choice but to expose the weak underbelly of his roster.
"You need to get the starter out," Clint Hurdle said. "When they're behind the second line of defense isn't as strong as the first line of defense,"
The Pirates added two runs in the fifth and tacked on two more in the eighth, on yet another home run by Sean Rodriguez. The Pirates have now scored four runs or more in 18 of their first 24 games.
"To be able to push Simon [was important]," Hurdle said. "We didn't crack him, but we pushed him and got to somebody else. It's the second night in a row that we've come and hit a home run late off a reliever."
The Pirates don't want to miss opportunities, but they also know that creating opportunities takes a toll on their opponent. Tonight it placed Price into precarious position in the fifth and the Pirates cashed in.
"There was constant pressure," Hurdle said. "We saw over 150 pitches in eight frames. Good to see."
Liriano picks up where Nicasio left off
Liriano picked up the Pirates' second Bill James' Gem in as many nights (66 game score). He allowed one run on five hits over 6 2/3 innings.
"I made something happen on three pitches or less and got ahead in the count," Lirano said. "I had better fastball command than my last couple starts."
The left-hander posted six strikeouts and didn't allow a walk. Heading into the game, Liriano had allowed the second most walks in baseball. Hurdle said that attacking the zone was something that he and Searage worked on heading into this start.
"That was an area of focus for him during his bullpens," Hurdle said. "To pound the zone better and pitch efficiency."
Happy May Day