In the quest to the playoffs, a team has to win in a variety of ways. There’s the blowout, offense-outburst type wins. There’s the close, well-played wins. Then there’s wins where a team doesn’t play well, but does just enough to squeak by. Today was one of those wins.
The Pirates didn’t do anything special today. Vance Worley was good enough, allowing one earned run and striking out four in six and two thirds innings. He walked two, hit one batter, and worked his way out of seven three ball counts. The offense was largely unspectacular, managing only four hits, one of those a three run homer by Neil Walker in the 1st inning. And the defense was average, nothing special like yesterday’s game.
Yet, it was enough to get the win. It’s the type of win the Pirates need to manage when they’re not at their best if they’re going to make the playoffs.
“These are the type of games that you have to win if you’re going to get where your trying to go,” Walker said.
It’s the type of win that separates a contender from a non-contender.
“The thing that separates really good teams are locking those one, two run leads down late in games, especially late in the year, and we’ve been pretty successful at that,” Walker said.
In order to win close games like todays, it’s often about quality pitching and clutch hitting. Worley and Walker provided the Pirates with both today.
Worley had struggled in his last two outings. Today, he was able to get back on track, mostly due to his fastball command. Even when Worley wasn’t throwing low strikes, he was able to pick corners and keep the ball down, essentially giving the Reds nothing to hit.
Recently, Worley had worked to get the proper angle on the ball again and to keep the ball down in the zone.
“Today, it was just a matter of working on the back side of the rubber, doing all of my work over the rubber before I went home, and I was able to get the angle on the ball again,” Worley said.
Hurdle concurred that it was the angle on Worley’s pitches that allowed him to have regain success.
“Worley was much more efficient today,” Hurdle said. “Better angle on all his pitches. It was a very good mix from start to finish.”
With Worley back on track, Hurdle is hoping that the rest of the pitching staff can mimic his success.
“Those starters, they keep grinding like they are right now, it’s going to put us in a good place,” Hurdle said.
Of course, the staff realizes that, as they’re pushing each other from outing to outing.
“We’re all pushing each other to go out there and be the best we can,” Worley said. “It’s a game within a game. We’re trying to one up each other and push each other to do better each outing.”
On the other end, Walker noticed a theme from Reds’ starter Alfredo Simon, and took advantage of it.
“He was trying to establish his fastball the first time through the order,” Walker said. “He was more tentative than we’re used to seeing him. After he walked Cutch, I thought being aggressive was something I wanted to do.”
Luckily for the Pirates, they were able to get to Simon when he was more vulnerable early in the game. After the first inning, Simon pitched six scoreless, one hit innings. On the day, Simon allowed four hits, three runs, and struck out seven.
But despite Simon’s mostly dominant outing, it wasn’t enough for the Reds to get the win. And despite the Pirates’ lackluster hitting, it was enough for them to come out on top.
After the game, Worley apologized to the media for keeping his old minor league stuff around his locker. He keeps it there as a reminder of the minors, showing him what he doesn’t want to go back to. But for the Pirates, today’s close win is a reminder of exactly where they want to go. And if they continue to win games like today’s, they just might.