(Sorry this is so late; read through the stuff about yesterday and stay for a “state of the team” ramble down at the bottom of the post.)
Yesterday was a weird day of baseball at Yankee Stadium. The Pirates spent most of both games looking like they’d never played the sport of baseball before, but still came awfully close to pulling out a double-header sweep of the Yankees. In the first game, Charlie Morton got into a ton of trouble in the first inning for the second start in a row, giving up three runs before getting an out, and then settled down into a groove, only allowing one run in the next six strong innings of work. The Pirates almost came back, but they left the bases loaded in the fourth and Andrew McCutchen on second in the eighth. The difference in the game ended up being Kelly Johnson’s run in the second, when he reached on a single, tried to steal second on a Zoilo Almonte strikeout, and found himself on third base after Clint Barmes ole’d a Tony Sanchez worm-burner throw.
The first half a the second game was a continuation of the frustrations from the first, turned up to 11. The Yankees gave the Pirates a run in the top of the second, but the Bucs refused to take more when Jose Tabata ill-advisedly tried to go from first to third on Ichiro’s arm, aggravating his oft-injured hamstring in the process. Travis Snider let an easy ground ball single roll through his legs for what amounted to a run-scoring triple. Brendan Ryan followed that with a nice bunt on a squeeze attempt that Gerrit Cole chucked over Gaby Sanchez’s head in frustration like a petulant nine year old (trust me on this: I was a petulant nine-year old on the baseball field and that’s what it looked like). The Pirates looked like they had a chance to rally in the top of the fifth when Josh Harrison doubled with two outs and Travis Snider on first, but then fell over at second base and was tagged out before Snider could get the run across.
Just when it looked like it was really going to be that kind of day, Starling Marte broke out of his awful double-header slump with a two-run homer. After Cole gave the run back on a Yangervis Solarte homer (I don’t mean to sound like a grumpy old man or anything, but the sport that’s played in this new Yankee Stadium really does resemble rec league softball much more than actual baseball), Josh Harrison added a homer of his own in the top of the seventh and bailed Tony Watson out with a diving catch in the bottom of the inning. The Pirates miraculously gave Mark Melancon an insurance run in the top of the ninth, and won a game by more than one run.
I’m really at a loss right now to describe what’s happening with this team. They swing from awful to promising so wildly and so regularly that it’s borderline nonsensical. The win in yesterday’s second game gives them an 8-7 record over their last five series. That’s certainly not good enough to make up ground in the division, and the six losses are full of really frustrating and occasionally inept play. Charlie Morton has made a habit of throwing an awful inning into otherwise solid starts. Gerrit Cole hasn’t quite figured out how to throw the switch yet. On one hand, it’s hard to completely throw the towel in on this team because 8-7 isn’t that bad, really, and because of how easily it really could be 11-4 or 12-3. On the other hand, they go through stretches like the first 14 innings yesterday that make you want to never watch them play baseball ever again.