Let’s start here: since 2005, my Mom has been asking me to be in a post on WHYGAVS. If we’re being honest, I can’t ever tell how serious she is about it or if she’s just giving me a hard time (I mean, I hardly ever put MYSELF on WHYGAVS, geez, Mom, don’t you want the other people on the internet to think I’m cool?). Whenever she asks, I always say that it’ll happen when the opportunity arises.
The opportunity has arisen. When PNC Park opened in 2001, my dad, my uncle, and some of their friends all went in on a season ticket package, splitting the tickets up maybe eight or ten ways. They got two seats in the first row on the right field wall, and we all agreed that the seats were spectacular. I sat in them a lot in the years that I was at Duquesne. We kept agreeing the seats were spectacular, and my dad and my uncle kept on renewing the seats, even as people dropped out of the pool while the Pirates’ losing streak dragged on and on. That was good, because they still had the seats for the playoff run and they still have them now. Whenever someone hits a ball into the grandstand, I check the replay to see who’s sitting in the seats and whether it’s my parents or my uncle in the seats. Tonight, Neil Walker lasered a home run directly over the Clemente Wall in the second inning, and I could tell from the live shot that the ball was hit right next to my parents. The slow-mo replay confirmed: that’s them diving out of the way as the guy right next to him risks his fingers to try and catch Walker’s laser bare-handed. Congratulations, Mom! You finally made it on WHYGAVS!
Watching my parents dive out of the way of a home run on the AGH cam was a strange way to begin a baseball game, and somehow that was only the beginning of the madness of this particular game. Walker’s home run was followed up by a home run from Ike Davis, his first since June 9th. The Pirates immediately squandered that lead with a Pedro Alvarez throwing error. The 2-2 score didn’t last long, though, because with one out in the third, Gregory Polanco hit a fly ball to right field, slammed his bat down, and then realized that it was going to land half-way up the grandstand and broke into his home run trot. Three batters later, Walker doubled in Travis Snider to make the score 4-2.
The game settled into a routine from there and it seemed like maybe it was destined to end 4-2 or with some similar score. Then Pedro Alvarez doubled and came out of the game in the top of the fifth inning after his double in the fourth when he tweaked something in his leg running the bases. Well, at least Harrison can help protect the lead defensively, was a thought that ran through my mind and probably your mind, too. And so of course then Harrison made a throwing error in the top of the sixth that lead the Dodgers to two more runs and a 4-4 tie game after 5 1/2 innings. I can’t imagine what Vance Worley, who must know his spot in the rotation is on the line, was thinking after two throwing errors by two different third baseman seemingly cost him what should’ve been an easy win.
The Pirates immediately went back to work after the Dodgers tied the game. Russell Martin and Ike Davis lead off the bottom of the sixth with singles off of Paul Maholm, so Jamey Wright was brought in to relieve Maholm. Josh Harrison laid down a puzzling bunt at that point, seemingly setting the inning up for endless frustration with Jordy Mercer and the pitcher’s spot due up, the righty Wright on the mound, and no useful left-handed bench bats to be found with Travis Snider starting the game in left field. Mercer struck out, but disaster was averted when Gaby Sanchez drew a walk to bring Gregory Polanco to the plate. Polanco, who looked so lost in the woods on Sunday that it honestly didn’t seem like an awful idea to play Michael Martinez yesterday, worked the count full and then laced a two-run single to left field. Snider brought Sanchez home with a single, then Wright hit Andrew McCutchen to load the bases back up, before throwing a wild pitch to allow the eighth run to score.
There is just one detail in that last paragraph that caused some consternation: Wright hit Andrew McCutchen. His control was awful (note the part about walking Gaby Sanchez and the part about the run-scoring wild pitch), but Justin Wilson went out determined to correct any perceived slight anyway. He tried and failed to hit Justin Turner with his first pitch, then finished the job with the second. He was promptly ejected, and Clint Hurdle followed him to the shower after an argue that I’m sure consisted entirely of Hurdle politely pointing Wilson’s walk rate out to the umpiring crew. Adrian Gonzalez of course followed this up with a two-run home run. 8-6 Pirates. Gulp.
But of course the weirdness was not over. Wright hit Russell Martin with the second pitch of the next inning, though it was with a big, looping curveball and couldn’t possibly have been intentional. PNC Park began booing like crazy. The Pirates failed to score, and so Tony Watson came out for the top of the eighth. Tony Watson is a left-handed pitcher, and the Dodgers have a particular player on their team who obliterates left-handed pitching. This particular player looks like Andy Van Slyke wearing a fake beard. He looks like Andy Van Slyke wearing a fake beard, because he is Scott Van Slyke, and he has a gigantic beard. After fouling three pitches off and working the count full, Andy Van Slyke’s son hit a home run in his first at-bat in Pittsburgh. 8-7 Pirates. Gulp.
The good news was that the Dodgers had one more bad reliever in their bullpen and the game had one more weird turn left in it. Chris Perez took the mound in the bottom of the eighth, and after getting Michael Martinez out to start the inning, promptly walked the next four batters he faced. Russell Martin and Ike Davis followed with singles to push the lead to 12-7. Ernesto Frieri pitched the bottom of the ninth without incident. The Pirates won 12-7.
Much of this game was so weird and so intensely focused on Josh Beckett’s inability to keep the ball in the ballpark, on the Pirates’ third basemen’s inability to throw the ball to first base, and on the Dodgers’ bullpen’s inability to throw strikes that it feels weird to try and glean any sort of greater meaning out of this game. What I’ll say is this: this felt like a game that the Pirates were going to lose at several points, and that would’ve been frustrating because the Dodgers pitched so badly tonight. The Pirate offense was very much up to the task tonight, though. They lead the National League in OBP this year, and regardless of who’s pitching, a 12-hit, 5-walk, 12-run attack is something to behold. The Pirates needed to score a lot of runs tonight. They did. Now they’re 53-47, 2 1/2 back of the Brewers, 1 1/2 back of the Cardinals and the wild card. A win is a win, even if it’s weird.
Image credit: Screengrab from the ROOT Sports Pittsburgh broadcast