Playing spoiler is a lot of fun. Getting dumped on is not.
On Thursday night, the Pirates pounded the feeble Phillies into the ground, taking the final game of this four-game series 4-1, behind the brilliant pitching of left-hander Francisco Liriano. Pittsburgh took three of the four games in this series, only the Phils' second series loss in their last six.
The Phils offense was cold for a lot of the last two games, generating just six hits in Thursday night's loss. Much of that was due to the brilliance of Liriano, who overpowered the Phillies' lineup with a slider that was almost impossible to hit. He went eight innings and struck out 12 while walking two.
Liriano had a terrific comeback season last year for the Pirates, going 16-8 with a 3.02 ERA, a FIP of 2.92 and an fWAR of 3.1. This year hasn't been quite as good, but he's still been solid, entering tonight's game with an fWAR of 1.2. After blanking the Phils for eight innings, his ERA dropped to 3.53 on the season.
A.J. Burnett was cruising along until the sixth, when he gave up three of his four runs on a Neil Walker RBI double, a Russell Martin sacrifice fly, and an RBI single to Gregory Polanco. In all, Burnett pitched six innings and gave up four runs with seven strikeouts and three walks.
Luis Garcia entered in the seventh and pitched a scoreless inning, which lowered the Paul Owens Award winner's ERA on the season to 10.80. Antonio Bastardo followed with a scoreless eighth, and Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez made an appearance for the second night in a row, tossing a run-free ninth.
One thing that's clear about these Pirates is that they can hit. They have five regulars (Andrew McCutchen, Russell Martin, Josh Harrison, Starling Marte and Neil Walker) who all have wRC+ numbers better than league average. No other team in baseball has as many.
The rotation also appears to be capable of doing some damage, led by Liriano, Edinson Volquez, Charlie Morton, Gerrit Cole and Vance Worley. Overall, the Pirates are a scary team.
Because this game was so lousy and anti-climatic, I'll spare you any more details of it, and instead post the speech made by the late Harry Kalas in the first Phillies game played after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, 13 years ago. Harry's words still elicit goosebumps.