After Andrew McCutchen got caught stealing in the fifth, struck out swinging in seventh inning, and badly misplayed Shane Victorino’s flyball to center into a go-ahead triple for the Phillies tonight, for the very first time this year I thought that maybe he was starting to get tired and look a little bit like a rookie. “It happens,” I said to myself, “He’s been better than any of us could’ve hoped for or imagined since his callup in May and he’s got an incredibly bright future with this ballclub. If he tails off a bit here, he tails off and there’s nothing wrong with that.” Ten minutes later, he sat back on a Brad Lidge fastball that Lidge left up in the zone and over the plate, and he whacked it right on the nose and over the center field fence for a walk-off, two-run homer. And now I’m looking at a line that says he went 2-for-4 with that homer along with a walk and I take it all back.
Of course, as awesome as the ‘Cutch walkoff was, it really shouldn’t have happened. The Pirates stranded runners on third base in the first, second, and third innings and a runner on second in the fourth and seventh. They had multiple chances to press Joe Blanton for more runs and could only score when Ryan Doumit and Steve Pearce put the ball over the fence. It was only through great work by Ross Ohlendorf (six strikeouts in 6 1/3, five hits, and only Jimmy Rollins’ two solo jacks on the board … and if you’re curious his fastball averaged 93.01 and topped out at 95.7 and was over 94 about seven times) and the bullpen (particularly Joel Hanrahan and Jesse Chavez, who both stranded inherited runners for Ohlendorf and Phil Dumatrait) that the Pirates carried at 3-2 lead into the ninth inning.
Of course, then Matt Capps pooped all over that lead, aided by misplays in the outfield by both ‘Cutch and Milledge (who, to be fair, was aggresively pursuing a pop-up and very nearly made a spectacular catch) and it looked like the Pirates were headed for one of those soul-sucking losses that they’ve been so good at racking up over the last 17 years. I’ll admit it; I switched the channel after Victorino’s triple and I only flicked back for the bottom of the ninth when I couldn’t find anything interesting to switch to and saw that Luis Cruz had singled to lead off the inning. As it happened, that was the right choice.
Almost immediately after the Pirates’ game ended, my Extra Innings channel switched over to the Giants/D’Backs game and while Matt Cain warmed up, the outfield scoreboard was visible and I could see “PHI 4 PIT 6” and I broke into a goofy grin. Who says August baseball is meaningless?