A lot of things happened in the last six innings of this game, but even now, a half an hour after the game eneded, all I can think about is Gregory Polanco’s home run. Before I can go any further, please watch it for yourself if you haven’t seen it yet.
I’m not sure exactly what Chase Anderson was trying to accomplish with that 3-1 pitch, but since it doesn’t look like he missed Miguel Montero’s target by that much, my guess is that it was a, “Put it in a place that Polanco can’t hit it to either draw a swing and a miss or a walk, then face the righty Marte with a force intact to end the inning” sort of pitch. If that’s what he was trying to do, it was a pretty good pitch; the pitch had some drop on it and ended down around Polanco’s shins and on the inside half of the plate. I think if you could’ve paused time and asked Anderson what he thought was about to happen when the ball was halfway between home and the plate, he would’ve guessed soft contact or a walk.
I don’t know if anyone would’ve guessed that Polanco would be able to both drop his bat head and turn on the pitch enough to hit a line drive over the right-center part of the Clemente Wall, but that’s exactly what happened. Given that the pitch was an 81-mph changeup, the combination of swing mechanics and physical gifts required to hit that ball over the fence like that is kind of staggering. Once you get over the accomplishment of the swing itself and remember that it came from a 22-year old whose power is still a work in progress, and yeah, that home run is the whole Gregory Polanco Hype Machine bottled up in one neat highlight.
Of course, other things happened in this game, too. Charlie Morton wasn’t quite as sharp as he was against the Rays, but most of the damage against him came from his own lack of control (three walks and five hits in six innings) and he was able to keep the Diamondbacks in check for six innings. Polanco also had a double in the first (he took third on a Gerardo Parra error) and scored on a Starling Marte groundout, while the Pirates added two runs in the ninth thanks in part to the Diamondbacks playing defense like a slow-pitch softball team.
With the win, the Pirates are now 44-40. Earlier losses by the Brewers and Reds puts the Bucs ahead of Cincinnati by a half game and within six of the Brewers, which is the closest they’ve been since May 26th. They’re even with the Cardinals for now, though the Cardinals are up by two in the fourth inning against the Giants as I type this. When the Pirates set out on this stretch of baseball against the Cubs, Rays, Mets, Diamondbacks, and Phillies, I said I thought they needed to go 11-5 to get themselves really back into the playoff conversation. They’re currently 9-3 with four games left. Hopefully I set my sights a little bit low.