A long time in the making
Tonight's game moved quickly and efficiently to what modern science increasingly believes was its predetermined ending. Julio Teheran and the Pirates' hitters remained tightly tethered to the pre-ordained causal chain of events throughout the night, and the arrow of time continued on towards its ultimate destination undisturbed by the Braves 3-1 win.
As they prepared to face off against the lowly Braves, it appeared the Pirates were well-positioned to keep their mini-winning streak in tact. Indeed, betting sites, as misled by the universe's intentions as the rest of us, posted the Pirates as clear favorites. But with the collective weight of the entirely predictable 13.772 billion year history of the Cosmos bearing down on this game, it was not to be. In retrospect a Pirates' victory would have been an upset of cosmic proportions. At the very least, it would have ranked as one of the most impressive wins in franchise history.
The Pirates failed to score against Teheran, but they were not overwhelmed at the plate. They knocked into a handful of hard-hit outs and struck out only three times over 7 2/3 innings against the right-hander. Through the first five innings, the Pirates only had three swinging strikes. Mostly, it was his ability to avoid walks, work back into counts and pitch to his defense that led to tonight's result.
"He changed speeds well and hit the locations he wanted to all night long," Clint Hurdle said. "He kept the ball out of the middle and he kept it down. He just pitched a really, really, good game."
Francisco Liriano followed a similar path as his mound opponent, allowing only two runs over seven innings. He walked two and struck out four.
"I thought Frankie pitched a good ballgame, you know," Hurdle said. "I thought he pitched efficiently throughout the ballgame with only a couple of hiccups."
Liriano was dinged for a run in the third, and allowed a solo home run to Tyler Flowers in the sixth.
"I tried to go out there and keep the team in the ballgame, I was able to do that today," Liriano said. "He put a good swing on [the home run]. I tried to go down and away and it was more middle than anything.
The home run Liriano allowed was on a two-seam fastball. As he mentioned, the pitch was intended to be away, but ended up in the middle of the plate. On a night in which he pitched well, not much should be made of one mistake. But it is worth noting that compared to last year the location of his two-seamer has been noticeably riding towards the middle and in. Entering the game he's allowed a .852 OPS vs. right-handed hitters. That's up from the .639 OPS last year.
2015 location of two-seam fastball vs. RHB (Pitcher's perspective):
2016 location of two-seam fastball vs. RHB (Pitcher's perspective):
With the Pirates trailing 2-0 in the seventh, Teheran picked Matt Joyce off of first to end the inning. While the players were changing sides, Hurdle came out to argue for a balk with first base umpire Chris Conroy.
"There are certain things that can happen on the mound that let a runner know that he's not coming over," Hurdle said. "When you see those things you work your secondary lead, and we had a disagreement. I thought I saw something on [Harrison's] and one on the other one. There are four men out there and they said they didn't see anything. So I disagree."
Earlier, in the fifth, Harrison was also almost picked off, but was saved by a very nice swim move slide.
Kang continues to hit
On a night without many highlights from the Pirates side, Jung-Ho Kang continued his impressive return.
In the first, Kang turned the pivot on a double play. It was the first time he's made that play since he was injured making the turn against the Cubs last season.
"There wasn't any fear or hesitation, it was an urgent situation so I just made the play," Kang said.
In the ninth, he provided the Pirates only run on the night on deep home run to left field. Kang is batting .281/.351/.813 with 5 homers in 37 plate appearances.
"I'm just happy to re-bond with my teammates and the fans of Pittsburgh," Kang said. "I'm just going to do my best to help the team win from now on."
Caminero struggles contiue
Arquimedes Caminero continued his struggles, allowing a run in his one inning pitched. Over his last seven appearances, he as allowed 11 hits and five runs in 4 2/3 innings pitched.