I’m not sure even where to start here. MLB.tv was down for the first four or so innings of this game. In fact, the whole media server was down, which meant no radio or TV for me. That means I didn’t see any of the first live; not Kevin Correia coughing up a 2-0 lead before the Pirates batted, not Neil Walker’s three-run homer to take the lead right back, not Starling Marte’s ridiculous laser-shot to right-center. By the time the game came back on in the top of the fifth, I felt like I’d missed an entire baseball game. I had no idea what was waiting ahead of me.
In the top of the fifth, Pedro Alvarez booted a ground ball that should’ve ended the inning with the Pirates ahead 4-3. Instead, they came to bat in the bottom of the fifth tied up at four. They loaded the bases up with no outs and Neil Walker drove a ball into the North Side Notch, but somehow Garrett Jones failed to score. As the runner on first with the bases loaded and nobody out, Jones could’ve gone all the way to second base while waiting to see if the deep fly, which was right in front of him, fell in. Instead he went less than halfway to second, which resulted in him being held at third since there were no outs in the inning. It seemed at that point like it wasn’t a big deal, but after a Pedro Alvarez strikeout, Jones tried to advance on a wild pitch that bounced right back to Miguel Montero off of the limestone and was tagged out. It was a bad bounce, but he should’ve scored already and he gave himself up so quickly that Walker couldn’t even advance to third. It didn’t matter because Rod Barajas struck out to end the inning. The whole sequence from the point that Walker’s double landed in the notch to the end of the inning was incredibly frustrating, though the Pirates took a 6-4 lead.
Things did not get easier for Garrett Jones from that point.
Before we get there, though, Josh Collmenter came in and threw an absolute meatball to Jordy Mercer and Mercer hit a line drive home run into the left field bleachers for his first big league homer. Mercer hasn’t gotten to play much in his time in Pittsburgh, but he’s pretty quietly played solid defense and he had a .435 slugging percentage before his home run tonight (only 25 plate appearances, but still). Those calls will not get quieter after tonight. But now, onwards to the weirdness!
After blowing their first post-seventh inning lead all year last night, it seemed pretty reasonable to think that the Pirates would be able to hold on to a 7-4 lead after six tonight. The Diamondbacks were not interested in rolling over. Chris Resop came in to pitch the seventh inning and promptly walked Stephen Drew. Willie Bloomquist hit a grounder to Pedro Alvarez and Alvarez made a throw that was basically took Garrett Jones right into Bloomquist. Jones instead elected not to catch the ball, which put Drew on third. He scored on a sac fly. With two outs, Justin Upton hit a ground ball to Mercer that should’ve ended the inning, but Mercer’s throw juuuuuust barely pulled Jones’s foot off of the base. Tony Watson came in to face Miguel Montero, and Montero hit a ground ball to Jones and Jones booted it and fell over. That brought Chris Young up with the bases loaded. Young stared at three strikes on the inside part of the plate and exploded at home plate umpire Larry Vanover. Vanover tossed him and Angel Marquez tossed Justin Upton for chucking his helmet in the general direction of the umpires on his way off the field. One inning, three errors, two players ejected, and somehow only one Diamondback run.
Around this time, it became clear that all of downtown Pittsburgh was being peppered with lightning and it was pouring at PNC Park. For some reason, the umpires decided to soldier on. Chad Qualls came in in the eighth and gave up his first run as a Pirate. 7-6. The bad baserunning and stranded runners seemed like they were due to add up. Then Joel Hanrahan popped in and struck out the side on 13 pitches and just like that the Pirates managed to hold on to a 7-6 win despite all of the mental and physical errors and the lightning and the rain and suddenly they’re within 2 1/2 of the Reds again.
What gets lost in all of the weirdness is that Neil Walker had a huge game in pulling the Pirates out of an early rut and giving them some insurance that they would end up needing later. His first inning homer set a career high, his five RBIs give him 65. Walker didn’t hit his fourth homer until June 12th, which means on June 11th he had three home runs and 24 RBIs and a slugging percentage of .365. Since then (48 games), he’s slugged .536. Just when I started to think his power wasn’t coming back, he’s surged forward again.
Marte’s homer is also worth a second mention; this thing looked like a lazy flyball off of the bat and it ended up being a dart that landed in the middle of the right-center grandstand. That’s two homers in two nights against the Diamondbacks and they’ve both had a crazy amount of raw power behind them. He’s obviously raw and he occasionally looks really bad at the plate, but he can also be really, really fun to watch.
The Pirates won. The Cardinals and Reds lost. Four errors or no errors, that’s a good night for the Pirates.