Sometimes, you get out on the baseball field and no matter what you do, you realize that it isn’t your night. When your opponent hits an inside-the-park home run (on a questionable call at home plate) and then follow it up with a two-run homer by their pitcher, that’s a pretty good sign it’s not your night. When you bounce into double plays three times in four innings, with two of them coming against a starter that’s decidedly not a groundball pitcher, it’s probably not your night.
It’s frustrating to watch and it’s frustrating for the Pirates, since both the team and the fans have been waiting a long time for a game like this, but it didn’t seem to me like the Pirates were overmatched tonight. The Reds got a couple breaks that lead to all three runs, whereas the Pirates had the double plays and weird bounces off of the pitcher’s mound. It sucks, but it happens in baseball. Wandy Rodriguez pitched much better tonight than he did in his Pirate debut and he bore down after hitting a rough patch in the fifth inning and on a lot of nights, he probably pitched well enough to win. Not tonight.
The moment that I’m sure that everyone will be talking about from tonight’s game is Aroldis Chapman’s 101 mph fastball that appeared to be aimed at the head of Andrew McCutchen in the ninth inning that bounced off McCutchen’s upper arm. I don’t want to pretend to know what Chapman was thinking (he’s quite a loner; he spent most of his time at the All-Star Game on the field by himself while all of the other players hung out and formed cliques), but I will say that I’ve never seen Andrew McCutchen react to anything with the anger that he showed after being plunked by Chapman. It sure looked intentional and if McCutchen thinks it was intentional and the rest of the Pirates think it was intentional, I don’t know if actual intent really matters.
Everyone’s immediate reaction is that they want to see the Pirates retalliate. I’m not sure there’s room for that in baseball in 2012. The umpires will be expecting retalliation and if the Pirates try anything, they’re liable to end up with ejections and suspensions in what is now an even bigger game, being 4 1/2 games behind the Reds. Really, if the Pirates would just crush the Reds tomorrow, I think that I would think that was pretty acceptable. If Chapman was throwing at McCutchen, it was a move aimed at establishing dominance, an exercise in disrespect. The best way to get respect is to earn it. Beat the Reds tomorrow, and the tone of the whole series changes.