Last night’s Pirates game was one where their late broadcaster Bob Prince should have been able to say “We had ’em all the way,” a trademark call of his when the Pirates won in dramatic fashion a game they might have lost. All the cards were stacked in Pittsburgh’s favor. They had returned home after beating the Reds Wednesday night in the Joey Votto Meltdown game. They were facing the Brewers, a team so biblically bad they are one that could easily be contracted if baseball had a strong commissioner like Judge Landis, capable of sticking to his guns. It isn’t just their 62-78 mark this year, it’s a history of awful play even after a beautiful new ballpark was built for them. Along with the Brewers, I can imagine Miami, Tampa Bay, Arizona and Colorado being contracted, so what little talent they have can be shared among other awful teams who have tradition in baseball-the Phillies and Braves to name two. Back to the reasons Pittsburgh should have won this one-Cincinnati had destroyed St. Louis 11-0, so the Buckos might have moved closer to their rivals.
The night got off to a bad start for the home standing Bucs. Pirates starter A. J. Burnett hadn’t pitched since the end of July, and it showed in the first inning. After an infield out scored Scooter Gennett, Chris Davis uncorked a monster home run with a man aboard to make it 3-0 before the fans could finish their first cup of Iron City beer. Wily Peralta shut the Pirates down, only allowing a run on a scoring fly ball by Neil Walker while he was on the hill. Reliever Jeremy Jeffress walked Travis Snyder with bases FOB (full of Bucs) putting another run home, making it 3-2.
Then the fun really began. Reliever Corey Knebel made bonus baseball possible by serving up a gopher ball to Andrew McCutcheon. It wasn’t anywhere near the longest home run you’ll see, at 357 feet, but one foot over the fence is good as a mile in a pivotal spot. The teams fought evenly until the 12th when it seemed the Brewers had it won. Ryan Braun singled home Logan Schafer for a 4-3 Brewers lead. Manager Craig Counsell’s next move was obvious-bring in closer Francisco Rodriguez. Normally that’s a good idea, but the first batter Gregory Polanco evened the score with a belt over the right field fence. What remained of the 22,000 who were there at the beginning roared with all the strength they could muster. But for this evening it was the final ball in the Pirates’ cannon. An inning later, singles by Logan Schafer and Luis Sardinias drove home the winning runs, and the Jolly Roger was taken down for the evening.
Weathering the Storm
Yesterday I wrote in this space that the most vital game was the one between the Yankees and Bluejays in the Bronx. I guess I should have known there might be trouble when my injured back, which has been quiet all week started hurting like mad right about game time. I’m writing from temporary quarters where the TV doesn’t get baseball, and by the time I could get the computer working the news was confirmed. Not only had the Yankees-Bluejays been rained out, the Cubs and Phillies were also a washout some hundred miles south of New York. One team managed to win in spite of the weather. The Mets, fresh off their sweep of Washington and not wanting even Mother Nature to slow them down, waited through a rain delay of two and a half hours in Atlanta before delivering yet another defeat to the Braves, 7-2. The crowd would have been small enough, and erroneous reports that the game had already been rained out made it smaller still-except for the 7-Line Army, the Mets’ fans who have followed them since their resurgence began in August. Mets’ starter Bartolo Colon extended his scoreless innings streak to 31, before the Braves put one run up in the 7th. 31 innings without giving up a run is the longest streak by a pitcher age 42 or older-beating the mark of 27 by a couple of baseball’s elite: Cy Young and Warren Spahn. In his opening day start this year against Washington, Colon gained the distinction of being baseball’s third man over 40 to strike out 8 or more men on opening day, joining Cy Young and Nolan Ryan.
Colon, baseball’s answer to Jim Gaffigan-got his 9th hit of the season, after garnering only two base knocks all last year. He is the only man in baseball to get a hit after age 40 and being listed as weighing 250 pounds or more. His hitting may be the stuff of jokes. Mets’ radio broadcaster Howie Rose said, when Colon hit a long double “They’re timing him with a sun dial.” But funny or not, Colon is much more likely to pitch in late October than baseball’s not so jolly giant, C. C. Sabathia. While the Yankees’ big man has spent more time on the disabled list than not during the last two seasons, the Mets’ ageless wonder hasn’t been on the DL in 4 years-since he was a Yankee. So, while Stephen Matz, Zack Wheeler, Noah Syndergaard (aka Thor, but that’s another column,) and Matt Harvey (aka The Dark Knight,) are undoubtedly the Mets future, a big part of their present, and how far they will go in the 2015 postseason is on the broad shoulders of their pitcher who is built like Mickey Lolich-or TV’s William Conrad. But that’s just baseball as I see it.