Yeah, I’ll be a loser and split the word into three separate ones, because I need to emphasize just how incredible last night’s game was. What more can you say, really, about an exhilarating walk-off win, and against the hated Cleveland squad to boot? I can’t even pick a most exciting moment. Was it the bases-loaded walk Andrew McCutchen drew in the seventh to tie the game? The game-saving, bring-it-back-from-over-the-fence catch that Nyjer Morgan made in the top of the eighth? The heads-up steal of third by Jack in the bottom of the ninth, which led to an easy score on McCutchen’s walk-off hit?
It was just fantastic. One of the best games I’ve been to, not just this year, but ever. The atmosphere was electric, almost palpable. In key situations, you could just feel the whole ballpark hanging on every pitch, and then emotions would crest as the pitch would come in, and when it did, a great communal release would occur, whether in a grunt of disgust, a sigh of relief, or, in the case of the bottom of the ninth, a scream of catharsis and sheer joy.
And what a scene down on the field, too, of the Pirates mobbing McCutchen at first base. All I could see from my vantage point in section 308 was lots of bouncing, chest-bumping, and dog-piling. At one point, Freddy wound up flat on his back, and had to be helped up. For just a few moments down there, it was like watching little kids living the dream.
And I got chills, too, just like I did last year during the Yankees’ series, because this is what it could be like. This is what it will be like. Do people think it’s a coincidence that the Pirates are 10-1 this season when playing in front of home crowds of 20,000 or more? Of course, they’re not going to draw until a winner is on the field. But once that happens…man, it’s going to be, well, fantastic.
I was thrilled with the win, of course, but also with the fact that it was achieved in nine innings. (Extra frames are always a concern with a work night game.) Continuing, then, with what was quickly turning into a perfect night, the predicted thunderstorms held out until no more than ten minutes after the game ended. Seriously. The tarp was on the field by the time I left the park. Walking back over the Clemente Bridge, the wind whipped and inflated my Pirate poncho, and I nearly Mary Poppins-ed myself back to the car. It was a somewhat dramatic ending to a night at the ballpark that was simply, well, you know.
Encouraging sign of the game: Lost in all of the offensive excitement was the performance of Tree Trunk Arms, who matched Cliff Lee (he of the fancy-pants and supposedly intimidating Cy Young Award) virtually pitch for pitch.
Discouraging sign of the game: Johnny Grabs was awful. I’m sorry, but it’s true. He walked the bases loaded, and only escaped serious damage thanks to Nyjer Morgan’s defensive heroics.
Things that make you go “hmm” (in a good way): As I pointed out on “Extra Innings” last night, I think the turning point in the game came with Andy LaRoche’s at-bat to lead off the seventh. He was able to work a walk (which allowed him to come around to score), but he also fouled off several pitches, thus driving up Cliff Lee’s pitch count and allowing the Pirates to get into an Indians’ bullpen that is, let’s face it, abyssmal. So well done, Andy.
Things that make you go “hmm” (in a not-so-good way): What in the world was Jason Jaramillo doing in the bottom of the eighth? The Indians had brought in a reliever whose ERA topped 10, and he had helped to walk the bases loaded. So Jaramillo comes up with only one out, and proceeds to swing at the first pitch and ground into a double play. You can groan if you want — I know I (and 30,000+ of my closest friends) did.
Jolly Rog status: Raised, and with authority, too.