Dugout Digest – claiming second place

Say what you want about the Pittsburgh Pirates, how they're not going to stay in contention in the second half of the year, and how they're really a 75 win at best, and so on and so forth…but last night, the Pirates staked a huge claim towards contending in the NL Central for the season's first three months, when they gave the defending World Champion Cardinals a punch in the mouth. The Pirates scored two in the first off of St Louis starter Adam Wainwright, but the Cardinals quickly scored five runs over the second and third innings, and looked like they would coast to a win. Then, the Pirates offense awoke, something it hasn't done too often this year. Pedro Alvarez tied the game with a three-run double in the fifth, and the Pirates scored four in the sixth (courtesy of three home runs) to make it 9-5. They put two more on the board on the eighth (including one on a bases loaded walk. Woohoo!), and capped the game off with a cherry on top, as all-world franchise center fielder Andrew McCutchen hit a three run homer to send the game to a 14-5 final score. 12 straight runs against baseball's defending champions, from an offense that has been labeled as pathetic all season. Well done, Pirates. They're a game out of first, a game and a half up on the Cardinals, and six games above .500. The Pirates would also be in the playoffs if the season ended today, as the second wild card in the National League. Now that's amazing.

Game of the Night: Nationals 5, Braves 4. In the battle for supremacy in the NL East, the Braves fell flat on their face. Ross Detwiler shut out the Braves over six innings, and his Nationals gave him four runs of support. But Davey Johnson sent Detwiler out for the seventh, and the game nearly blew up in his face. Detwiler's ptich count was low, but because of some intense Atlanta heat, he looked spent. Detwiler got the first out of the inning on a Matt Diaz flyout, but then plunked Freddie Freeman. Jack Wilson reached on a bunt single that was intended to be a sacrifice when Detwiler couldn't hold on to the ball, and the runners each moved up 90 feet on a balk. Martin Prado singled in Freeman to make it 4-1, and Michael Bourn hit a sac fly to make it 4-2. That brought up rookie Andrelton Simmons, who had stranded five men on base in his last two at bats, both inning ending. Of course, the rookie homered to left center to make it a 4-4 game. Detwiler was pulled, and reliever Sean Burnett got out of the inning. The Braves put in Chad Durbin to pitch the eighth, and of course, he allowed a go-ahead homer to Michael Morse on his first pitch. The Braves put runners on first and second with one out in the ninth, but Bourn nor Simmons could get either runner home, and that was that. The Braves stranded seven runners for the game…and all of them were stranded when Andrelton Simmons ended the inning. Game-tying homer aside, this was not a good night for the rookie.

Pitching Lines of the Night: A Red Sox pitcher threw a complete game shuout in Seattle. It was Aaron Cook. What the hell? Yep, in Boston's 5-0 win, Cook went the distance, allowing two hits, no walks, and two strikeouts. He also got ZERO swinging strikes. That's typical Aaron Cook right there. Paul Maholm of the Cubs nearly went the distance, but was pulled after 8 1/3 scoreless against the Astros in Chicago's 4-0 win. Maholm allowed four hits, one walk, and struck out six in the process. Luis Mendoza of the Royals allowed one run over eight innings against the Twins in Kansas City's 4-3 win, giving up five hits and striking out five batters, not walking a batter. There's also RA Dickey, who responded to getting shelled by the Yankees last Sunday by shutting out the Dodgers over eight innings, allowing three hits and one walk, striking out 10 in the process as the Mets won 9-0. No big deal.

Hitting Lines of the Night: Andrew McCutchen continues to be awesome for the Pirates. He went 4/5 last night, scoring four times and driving in three while doubling, homering, and walking in the Pirates' blowout win over the Cardinals. Aaron Hill hit for the cycle, which we mentioned last night, and also scored a pair while driving in three. He stole a base for good measure in Arizona's 9-3 win over the Brewers. His teammate Paul Goldschmidt also had a good game, going 4/4 with two runs, three RBI, a walk, two doubles, and a homer. The White Sox slaughtered the Yankees 14-5, and the struggling Alexei Ramirez had a good game, going 4/5 with three runs, three RBI, a double, and a homer. In the same game, AJ Pierzynski went 3/5 with three RBI and a pair of homers. Then, there's Adam Lind of the Blue Jays, fresh off of a month in AAA. Lind went 2/3 with four RBI and two homers for the Jays, as they beat the Angels 7-5. 

Other Games: The Orioles edged the Indians 9-8. The Marlins beat the Phillies 6-2, and Cliff Lee is going into July without a win this year. The Rays beat the Tigers 4-2, featuring David Price outdueling Justin Verlander. The A's blew a lead late to the Rangers, who prevailed 4-3. The Rockies destroyed one of the only teams worse than them, the Padres, by a 10-2 score. The Reds beat Matt Cain and the Giants 5-1.

Today's Games: Jake Peavy takes on Hiroki Kuroda in the Bronx. Lance Lynn will go for the Cardinals against the Pirates. Stephen Strasburg takes on the Braves and sacrifical lamb Mike Minor. Matt Garza and the Cubs take on the Astros. The surprising Scott Diamond of the Twins starts in game one of a doubleheader against the Royals, while Luke Hochevar gets the nod for the Royals in game two. Mat Latos takes on Barry Zito in San Francisco. Cole Hamels will start for the Phillies in Miami against Mark Buerhle. Wade Miley will go for the Diamondbacks against Michael Fiers of the Brewers. Rangers rookie Martin Perez makes his first career start against Tom Milone and the A's. Johan Santana starts for the Mets in Los Angeles. Josh Beckett will start for the Red Sox against the Mariners.

Enjoy your day of baseball, everyone.

About Joe Lucia

I'm the managing editor of Awful Announcing and the news editor of The Comeback. I also made The Outside Corner a thing for six seasons.