At some point in the mid-teen innings of last night’s epic contest against the Braves, Greg Brown and Bob Walk were joking about long games. “But you know what?” Greg said. “You’ll play all night if you have to, if it means you get the win.”
And in the end, that turned out to be a pretty big if, because after nearly six complete extra innings, and so many wasted opportunities by the Pirates (they stranded baserunners in nearly every one of those extra innings), and a simultaneously excruciating and thrilling battle of the bullpens, the Braves came away with the win. Off the bat of David Ross, their back-up catcher, who belongs to the seemingly ever-growing fraternity of mediocre players who own the Pirates.
And it wasn’t like they won with authority, either. Ross hit a sharp grounder deep into the hole at shortstop, but Jack was lurking there (naturally). He made a play that most other shortstops wouldn’t have, and heaved the ball home. Jason Jaramillo caught it, but in doing so, he had to take a step off of home plate. Literally, a step. If his feet were maybe two sizes bigger, the Pirates and Braves might still be playing. And in the aftermath of that moment, in the bottom of the fifteenth inning, I felt a little bit like Jaramillo looked, sitting in the dugout watching the Braves jump around — that wasn’t much fun, after all.
Still, it was a heck of a game, and despite the army of men left on base, the Pirates actually played quite soundly. There was timely pinch-hitting by Eric Hinske, sound defense by Jack (naturally), and an impressive performance by the bullpen (especially Evan Meek, who gets mad props for throwing three scoreless frames). There was also the performance of Andrew McCutchen who, I am going to come out and say right now, for the record, I do not particularly care for. Gasp not, fellow Pirate fans, nor think it has anything to do with the fact that he’s not Nate (although, fairly or unfairly, I have yelled, “Nate would’ve had it!” for each of the balls McCutchen has misplayed so far). But I have a big problem with big egos, and it seems like Mr. McCutchen needs to get his in check. I’m just saying.
And speaking of Nate, what a whirlwind of emotions that must have been. Even though he said in a pregame interview he was looking forward to getting the whole “playing his old team” thing out of the way early on, it still must have been so strange, especially for six additional innings. And I had to wonder what he felt in the moment of the mob at home plate. I’m sure he was smiling, but what was he really feeling? Was there some twinge of sympathy for his ex-mates? And how did Freddy or Jack feel, earlier in the game, when Nate rounded the bases following his towering blast to center? Was there even the slightest temptation to give him a high-five?
All in all, it was an interesting night of baseball, to say nothing of Jeff Karstens’ (ultimately futile) relief appearance. Does this mean Charlie Morton’s promotion is imminent? Does this mean he’ll take Karstens’ spot? Will other roster moves be made today, just to get some fresh arms in the ‘pen? I’ll tell you what, if there were ever a night for TTA to go seven or eight strong innings, this would be it.
Encouraging sign of the game: Timely, efficient hitting in the first seven innings.
Discouraging sign of the game: A complete lack of the above in the final eight.
Things that make you go “hmm” (in a good way): Tom Gorzelanny continues his good work out of the bullpen. What does this mean, exactly, for him long-term? Something to keep an eye on…
Things that make you go “hmm” (in a not-so-good way): Prior to last night’s game, Zach Duke had given up four home runs on the season. During last night’s game, Zach Duke gave up three home runs. Ouch.
Jolly Rog status: Lowered, and trying to use his eyepatch to block out the Atlanta sun and rest up after last night’s marathon.