The Type of Win That Defines a Contender

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.

Analysis

  • The facts are that the Pirates did try to add to the quality of the team at the trade deadline, but they were trying to do it with high end talent and they were giving away high end talent, it did not work, but they did have something to fall back on, that is that they still are one of the best teams in baseball without making any moves, but it is never a bad thing to try and make your team better. St.Louis knew that they were in a bad situation with their pitching and they tried to do something about it to their credit. Whether players work out after trades is something like pot luck.

  • A week or so ago, we were LOSING these types of games to the Nationals. So does that mean, that……………….? Wait, what DOES it mean? Maybe that baseball is a cyclical, long season and losing/winning streaks happen to the best of teams?

  • Actually, I think both of you are correct. My comment was really aimed at the people who were absolutely certain that the Pirates didn’t make any deal because ,A., They didn’t try, or B.,” Nutting is too cheap ” ,and now they are done.

  • Pretty difficult for anybody to complain much about the starters or the pen for the last week or so, right ? And for all of those that were moaning and groaning about the lack of deadline deals, those types of deals have REALLY paid off for the Cardinals, Tigers and A’s, haven’t they ?

    • There is an old saying my Grand Pappy used to tell me: Its better to have tried and failed, then to never have tried at all.

      • Ignoring how that doesnt even really apply to the situation, are you even really saying you would rather be STL right now than us? If only we had Justin “i give up HRs like candy” Masterson and John Lackey? Id rather not trade for one okay pitcher and one bad pitcher and say “well we tried”. Making moves simply to be making moves is the sign of a team looking to appease the fanbase.

        • It does apply to the situation. You cannot blame St. Louis for trying to improve, or any other team that made a trade at the deadline. Just because the results are not what they had hoped for, doesn’t make it wrong. By all reports, the Pirates did try to make a deal, so they did try as well, so this is no way intended as a slap against the Pirates.

          • But, if you fail, you lose prospects. Don’t forget THAT side of the equation.

            There is also a baseball saying: “Sometimes the best trades are the ones you DON’T make”.

          • I can blame them for trying to improve by getting one average pitcher and one that is plain bad. Acquiring any player isnt “trying to improve”. The results dont dictate their trades being bad, the fact that they thought Masterson solidified their rotation did. At the trade deadline, one of the most inefficient times to gain talent that usually doesnt translate to more wins, making a move to do so usually is dumb. Most over hyped day of the season.

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