The Pirates won a ballgame, 4-2, against the Cubs Wednesday night at PNC Park.
But that's secondary. Because during the game, a report circulated, declaring that Clint Hurdle would return to the team as manager next season. The reporter also tweeted that, by "reading between the lines" a bit, it sure sounded like Neal Huntington is here to stay with the Pirates, too. That conversation dominated our live file for the game.
Our own Dejan Kovacevic heard differently. Much differently.
And he wrote all about that right here.
The Pirates did achieve 27 outs on the night to secure back-to-back wins over the Cubs, though, and they did it behind ... Dario Agrazal and Erik Gonzalez?
Roll the footage:
That's Agrazal dusting up the Cubs to the tune of six-plus innings pitched, allowing six hits and two earned runs while striking out five in the process. Perhaps most impressively, he did it on just 72 total pitches, 50 of them strikes. It was efficient and clean, exactly the kind of outing Hurdle and company want to see from their young rotation as they continue to gear up for 2020 and beyond.
"I love the way he pitched today," Hurdle said. "... He changed speeds, he used his fastball, he ran it back over the inside of the plate to left-handers, he ran it in on the right-handers. He used the slider as needed for his main spin pitch. A changeup also was a big pitch to the left-handers for him. He retired 13 guys on three pitches or less. He had no walks and five strikeouts. That's a really fine outing."
Agrazal took it a step further, saying it was perhaps the best start of his major-league career.
"From a certain point of view, I could say it is [my best major-league outing], because it's my last outing of the season and I wanted to finish strong. I wanted to finish with a good impression toward my team ... And to be able to do that, I can say that, yes, this is one of my, not just my best outing[s] but one of my favorites."
Of course, none of Agrazal's pitching matters much if the offense can't put runs on the board, and they did just enough, largely thanks to Gonzalez's bat.
Yes, you read that correctly.
Gonzalez extended his hitting streak to nine games, going 3 for 3 with two RBIs and a run.
Gonzalez was the only Pirates player to register a multi-hit night, boosting his average to .254 on the year. It's not much, but it's honest work. And it's an improvement, one few saw coming after his early-season struggles.
"I think some of it's the continuity of play," Hurdle was saying of Gonzalez's recent surge. "We've been able to package some games together. He's been able to bundle some at-bats, move him around the diamond defensively. He's worked hard on his swing. He was working hard on his swing when he wasn't getting the repeated opportunities. So to get those three, four at-bats a night for a consistent period of time has really helped, I think, for his confidence and just his demeanor in the box.
"He's hunting pitches, and he's getting his swing off."
• Keone Kela secured his first save in a Pirates uniform.
"He had a bunch of them in a Ranger[s] uniform, and we didn't run into one last year when he joined us, so, yes, that was equally as fun to watch [as Agrazal's effort]," Hurdle said.
• Enjoy this inning-ending double play in the seventh for no other reason than because it was beautiful:
Great stuff from Kevin Newman to kickstart it right there.
• Catching Agrazal tonight was Steve Baron, a September call-up making his first start as a member of the Pirates. It was a big-league reunion for the two, as they worked together at Triple-A Indianapolis.
"We had a plan. We executed it. That was it," Baron was telling me after the game. "I was happy. I was happy to contribute, just find a way to help the team win."
I ran the dynamic by Agrazal after the game, too:
"Steve is a teammate that's been with me for some time now. He caught me a lot of times in Triple-A, has a lot of experience just recognizing who I am, my weaknesses, my strengths. We were able to go into this game, and we were able to execute the game plan. That was something that worked a lot in our favor as a team. Steve is a great teammate and he knows me very well, and I'm glad that we were able to come out with the win today together."
• The Brewers won, which eliminated the Cubs from playoff contention before the Pirates had a chance to do it themselves. And Jordan Lyles got the win. For real. One more bit of fun, from the crew here at PNC Park:
The PNC Park scoreboard crew out here trolling. pic.twitter.com/k5AjLtEPM3
— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) September 26, 2019
Hey, when you're 67-91, you gotta take each and every win you can. Even when it's just a jab on the scoreboard. Our subscribers understand. I particularly liked this one:
Our Alex Stumpf got in on the fun too, with this zinger:
— Alex Stumpf (@AlexJStumpf) September 26, 2019
Good times. Good times.
• Reynolds Watch: It's probably time to retire this segment. Bryan Reynolds went 0 for 1 with a groundout in the first and left the game with a hamstring injury. At .314, he's in seventh place in the NL batting title hunt, trailing Christian Yelich's .329 mark. Kevin Newman, Reynolds' fellow rookie-in-crime during this chase, went 1 for 4 and sits at .309, good for eighth place. Incredible season for both of them, but it won't end with any hardware.
• Chris Archer (shoulder, out for season)
• Josh Bell (groin, out for season)
• Starling Marte (wrist, out for season)
• Elias Diaz (knee, out for season)
• Cole Tucker (knee, out for season)
• Gregory Polanco (shoulder, out for season)
• Lonnie Chisenhall (60-day IL, decided cover band was too hard, practicing on Guitar Hero instead)
Here’s the most recent full report.
The Pirates return Thursday for another tilt with these Cubs at PNC Park. First pitch is set for 7:05 p.m. Alex Stumpf will have that full coverage, beginning with the opening of the clubhouse at 3:15 p.m.
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