Fork in the road

Game 78: Rays 5 Pirates 1

The easiest way to characterize this game would be thusly: both David Price and Charlie Morton pitched absolute gems on Wednesday afternoon, with Price striking out 11 Pirates and holding the Bucs to on five hits in 8 1/3 innings, while Charlie Morton struck out 11 Rays and held them to four hits in seven innings. The game basically turned on two defensive plays. In the first inning, Ben Zobrist hit a sinking line drive to right-center, and Andrew McCutchen failed to come up with the sliding catch. That turned Zobrist’s hit into an RBI triple and coupled with Jordy Mercer’s error, that accounted for all three runs the Rays scored off of Morton. It would not have been an easy play for McCutchen to make, but it is a play he’s made before. Since some of McCutchen’s value and reputation lies in his defense in center field and particularly in his closing ability on seemingly uncatchable balls just like this one, well, it’s a play that you expect Andrew McCutchen to make because he’s Andrew McCutchen. Conversely, Neil Walker ripped a ball into deep left-center field with two on and two outs in the seventh inning and Desmond Jennings made an excellent running catch to save a double and two runs. It wasn’t as difficult as the play that McCutchen failed to make, but it wasn’t an easy play, either. In a game where both starters where excellent, the Rays made their tough plays in the field and the Pirates didn’t. That’s what made the difference.

Of course, you can also go off on a bit of a tangent. The Pirates played the game with a ridiculously terrible looking lineup, which happened partially because of Starling Marte’s injury last night. Marte apparently does not have a concussion and won’t miss much time, but was understandably given the afternoon off today. Putting him on the bench moved Josh Harrison to left field, moving Harrison to left field put Clint Barmes at third base since batting Pedro Alvarez against David Price wasn’t likely to be useful. That’s a tough circumstance for the Pirates, but what didn’t help them at all was the fact that they actually needed a DH at all today. The Pirates are very much a National League team. Every player on their roster has defensive value, they’re built around platoons that can be used to manipulate pitching changes and turn double switches to their advantage. Because the new schedule throws random interleague games all over the place, NL and AL teams routinely find themselves in fish-out-of-water territory, because it’s not worth it to make a roster move for a three-game series, but neither league’s rosters really lend themselves to playing the other style of baseball. I’m not trying to come off as a whiner here, because this is the way that it is right now, because the previously unbalanced leagues were really unfair, and because as stated above the Pirates could’ve won this game on had they just made a couple of plays. I’m simply pointing out that having two leagues with two different sets of rules is stupid when you have constant interleague play. I’m guessing the teams think it’s pretty stupid, too, and so I’m going to warn all of you hardcore National League fans right now: the DH is coming to the National League, and I very seriously think that it might be here as soon as the next CBA negotiations after the 2016 season. You have been warned.

Of course, the final score of this game was not close at all and it wasn’t close because Jason Grilli couldn’t get three outs in the eighth inning without giving up four hits and two runs. He’s got maybe one or two more outings to prove that he’s worth a roster spot at this point. Maybe.

Image: Jennifer, Flickr

Pat Lackey

About Pat Lackey

In 2005, I started a WHYGAVS instead of working on organic chemistry homework. Many years later, I've written about baseball and the Pirates for a number of sites all across the internet, but WHYGAVS is still my home. I still haven't finished that O-Chem homework, though.

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