It’s a bit of a cliche to say that baseball is a weird an unpredictable sport, that over the course of nine innings and 54 outs and 200+ pitches there are almost an infinite number of things that can happen. This is all true, of course, and sometimes really weird things do happen. I can still remember being in the car for this game, when Jay Bell hit a ground ball off of Kirk Gibson’s helmet. I think there have been three different occasions in the last 10 years where the Pirates had two players end up on the same base and had them both tagged out through their own stupidity. There was that game that ended when Neil Walker hit a groundball that struck Pedro Alvarez on the base paths (or was it vice versa? I think I’ve already blocked the memory) that either ended the game or killed the Pirates’ ninth inning rally.
It’s true that anything can happen in a baseball game, but the reality is usually much more mundane. Most games follow a predictable pattern. On any given night, most baseball games end within a range of results that may not be predictable, per se, but that are least within the plausible range of possible outcomes. For me, the most surreal baseball games are the ones that fall into the most extreme ranges of the plausible. The games where the outcomes aren’t technically weird or impossible on the grand scheme of things, but that fall so far onto one end of the bell curve or the other that they might as well be.
If I said to you at 6:45 this evening that Joel Hanrahan was going to blow a save by giving up a home run to Adam LaRoche, who is completely on fire right now despite it not being June, and that he’d get bailed out when Rod Barajas hit a walkoff two-run homer in the bottom of the ninth, you’d probably think I was crazy. The weird synchronicity of the ex-Pirate homering off of the ex-National, only to have the whole thing erased by the one Pirate that every Pirate fan is currently moaning about is crazy. But if I asked you if it was impossible, you’d have to admit that it wasn’t quite impossible, that was an outcome within the realm of reasonable possibilites, however remote they might be.
A lot happened in this game tonight that’s probably going to get buried under the crazy finish. AJ Burnett had a strong bounce-back from his nightmare start in St. Louis tonight against the Nats. He went eight innings, striking out ten, walking one, and giving up two runs on six hits. He had a 10:1 groundout:flyout ratio. In short, he did pretty much all of the things he was doing well before the Cardinals lit him up for 12 runs. Hopefully we’ll look back on that game as an aberration.
Barajas wasn’t the only Pirate to hit his first homer of the season tonight, either: Andrew McCutchen hit a BOMB to left-center that bounced off of the batter’s eye in the second inning tonight. It goes without saying, but the Pirates would really benefit from McCutchen’s bat getting going. His homer tonight is only his eighth extra base hit of the season. Neil Walker also stayed hot with a double. I will continue to sit here and wonder what would happen if those two and Pedro Alvarez could all get on a roll at the same time. I bet the Pirates wouldn’t need to rely on a Rod Barajas walkoff if that happened.