Anyone that’s ever hit a home run can tell you: the first one is special. Mine came when I was a 12-year-old catching for Hermitage Kiwanas. We were playing Advanced Auto Body on the American League Field at the Carl Harris Little League Complex in Hermitage in what had been a crazy back-and-forth battle early on. They took a 4-0 lead in the top of the first, we quickly tied, it, and then they scored four more in the top of the second. I stepped to the plate in the bottom of the second with the bases loaded and a pitcher whose name I do honestly remember, but don’t want to just toss out in a public forum like this on the mound.
He didn’t throw very hard and gave me a perfect pitch that might as well have been on a tee. I took a slight uppercut swing and didn’t even feel the ball hit the bat. I knew it was gone. My dad (the coach), later told me that from the dugout, he was sure that I’d hit the ball too high, but I told him I knew differently. We ended up winning the game 14-13 in the bottom of the sixth and I walked in my last two at-bats. During the game, my friends who were playing on other fields came running over to find out if it was true. It’s still one of my better memories from my baseball playing career.
The reason that I’m telling the story is because I’m certain that Jason Jaramillo has me trumped. I mean, I’m sure that Jaramillo has hit home runs before, but that first big league homer has gotta be special. And to hit it off of Johan Santana to tie the game? I’m freaking jealous.
The inning after that, Freddy Sanchez, Nate McLouth, and Adam LaRoche rapped three quick hits in succession off of Santana that scored two runs, and that was the ballgame. So we’ve got a rookie catcher hitting his first homer, and back to back RBI doubles from left-handed hitters off of one of the best lefties in the game. These are the sorts of things that a team needs to take advantage of and tonight, the Pirates did it.
This game was a great example of how improved defense is helping Zach Duke. Brandon Moss made a great running catch at the right field line early in the game, and it was immediately followed by a nice play at third by Andy LaRoche. Duke didn’t strike out any hitters in his seven innings, but he scattered eight hits and only allowed one run because of it. Duke made three starts last year without striking out a hitter; he was 0-2 in those starts, never made it past the sixth inning, and had a 6.60 ERA. On top of that, he gave up an unearned run in two of those starts. I don’t advocate Duke doing this every time out, but the defense let him get away with it tonight.
The Pirates beat Johan Santana. Holy crap.