Before tonight’s game Clint Hurdle presented Josh Harrison with the MLB Players Alumni Association’s Heart and Hustle award. It’s an award based on two words that most fans often describe Harrison with. They’re two words that are intangible, and based on old baseball clichés. They’re two words that don’t give Josh Harrison justice for the season he’s had. Tangibly, Harrison has played tremendously this year.
Throughout the season, Harrison has continuously provided the Pirates with numerous, oftentimes clutch hits, and remarkable, instinctual defense. Tonight, Harrison once again provided his team with these qualities in spades.
He collected three hits on the night, a single, double, and triple, the last a triple off of Jonathan Broxton to drive in Andrew Lambo and spark the Pirates’ 2-1 victory.
“I was ready to hit. I was just looking for something that I can handle, and he gave it to me it first pitch,” Harrison said.
In the field, he made play after play, seemingly always right where the ball was hit. At least two of those plays were well above average, the first one a diving stop to his left in the 4th to snag Devin Mesoraco at 1st, and the second a diving stop to his right in the 7th, slapping third with his hand to get Mesoraco, and whipping a strong throw to first to get Kristopher Negron.
The latter of those plays was completely instinctual, Harrison said.
“My right hand’s closer, it would have taken a lot more [time] to turn around, step on the bag, or hit it with my glove,” Harrison said.
In summation, it was a tremendous, multiple glowing adjective type of game for Harrison.
“We can watch a lot of major league baseball games, you’d be hard pressed to find a better all-around game that Josh had tonight,” Hurdle said.
For Hurdle, it’s not surprising that Harrison played like he did, and came up with the clutch triple against the wall in the 8th.
“You do [expect him to get a hit]. He’s kind of given everybody that believe,” Hurdle said
On defense, Hurdle wasn’t surprised by Harrison’s play either.
“He’s just so instinctive. It’s such a quick read for him ball off bat. First step quickness is excellent,” Hurdle said.
For all of Hurdle’s lustrous praise, Edinson Volquez’s comments shined even brighter.
“He’s unbelievable, he can do everything. For me he’s the MVP [of the league],” Volquez said.
Perhaps the biggest compliment for Harrison, though, was that he was able to outshine Volquez’s outing. Volquez brought a no-hitter into the 7th, which was broken up by Mesoraco with a single to left. On the night, Volquez scattered one run, three hits, and six strikeouts over 7 and two-thirds innings. He threw 114 pitches—71 of them strikes—and recorded ten groundouts and two fly outs. For most of the game the Reds struggled to make strong contact, as Volquez continuously mixed and kept down his fastball, sinker, changeup, and knuckle-curve.
When at his best, it’s the type of outing one’s come to expect from Volquez. Quietly and efficiently, he’ll cruise through the game, striking out hitters occasionally, but mostly dominating them by inducing weak groundouts.
“He did keep the fastball down, he moved it in and out,” Hurdle said. “The curveball, the changeup played at times.”
Volquez was more unassuming in his reasoning for his success.
“Good warm-up, good pregame, and I was able to bring it to the game and execute pitches.”
The outing brought Volquez ERA down to 3.45, though it didn’t give a win, as his mound mate, Mike Leake, was almost as spectacular. In his career, Leake has mostly given the Pirates trouble, though he’s struggled against them this year. Today, he got back to his old ways, pitching seven scoreless innings.
Tony Watson was awarded the win, upping his record to 10-1. Mark Melancon wrapped the game up with a clean, hitless 9th, giving him his 25th save. The victory upped the Pirates’ record to 70-64. Vance Worley (5-4, 3.14 ERA) will oppose Alfredo Simon (13-8, 3.26 ERA) in tomorrow’s game, as the Pirates’ continue their quest for a playoff spot.