Wrong Day to Abandon Ship in Pittsburgh

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Hi all. Here’s how I see baseball on this Monday, June 24. In these days of low baseball attendance and the shortened attention span of the modern American mind, the temptation is to tune out if your team is trailing late in the action or to leave the game if you are in attendance. Yesterday, the casual fan had two perfect chances to bail out on the Pirates–when they were down 7-4 in the 9th and when they fell behind 10–7 in the 11th. If you were one who headed for Highway 376, 279 or the Pennsylvania Turnpike, you lost out on a brilliant comeback in the 9th and a garrison finish in the 11th. My old pupil, Joe Block had the chance to shout “Raise the Jolly Roger” as the Pirates took the Padres 11-10 on a walk-off walk. Fernando Tatis JR. and Manny Machado tried their level best to avoid a series sweep by the Pirates. Tatis pulled a page out of Ty Cobb’s notebook and scored from third on a toy fly ball that barely reached the outfield. Up in Heaven, the normally dour Georgia Peach must have been smiling. That piece of dead ball era or 1960’s baseball took place before most of the fans had time to get comfortable. The Pirates put up two runs in the third, about the time the locals could finish their first Iron City beer and be considering ordering a second. (That evil brew caused me my worst set of hiccups in a dozen years behind a microphone.) Pirates’ starter Steven Brault drove in the tying run after which Jose Osuna singled him home. The lead didn’t last long, as no lead would on this day. In the visiting half of the 4th, Austin Hedges used his second double of the game to tie it, after which he scored on a single by Tatis. The home team would score in their next two turns. In the 4th, Osuna drove home his second run of the day with a single. An inning later, Starling Marte hit a scoring fly ball, making it 4–3. The Pirates would be stuck on 4 until their turn in the 9th. Meantime, the Padres scored two each in the 6th and 8th to make it a 7–4 game. Tatis and Eric Hosmer singled runs home in the 6th. In the 8th with the bases full, Machado doubled home 2 runs to hopefully put the game out of reach. After all, the Padres closer Kirby Yates hadn’t blown a save in 26 tries. This was his day to drop a clanger. The Hawaiian native pitched in that woeful inning like the Kirby Yates the Yankees unloaded some years ago with an ERA north of 5. In that inning, Kevin Newman and Bryan Reynolds each singled home a run. Melky Cabrera brought home the tying run on a grounder. It wasn’t dramatic but it got the job done. There would be bonus baseball.

Neither team scored in the 10th. Facing Francisco Liriano in the 11th, Manuel Margot drove in the tie-breaking run with a bunt single. Hedges then singled two more runs across to make it a 10–7 Padres’ lead. With Yates long gone, Phil Maton tried in vain to close the deal for the Padres. He started by walking Bryan Reynolds. After striking Marte out, Josh Bell singled. Cabrera brought the Pirates to within 10-8 with a double. So much for Maton. On came the former Atlanta Braves’ starter Matt Wisler. He gave up the two tying runs on a base knock by Jacob Stallings. With the bases full, he walked Newman which gave the victory and a 3-game series sweep to the Pirates.

I’ve read on social media that 18 of MLB’s 30 teams are already out of contention for any kind of playoff position. The Buccos and the Friars (as Padres’ broadcaster Ted Leitner sometimes calls them) could well be two of those 18 teams. Even if that should be true, they were both capable of producing an exciting game on a quiet Sunday afternoon. This game was a rare break from the unwatchable baseball MLB considers acceptable. There wasn’t a home run or a rumor of a home run. While those are sexy, they shouldn’t be the alpha and the omega of the great game, as they have become in the past few years. This game was reminiscent of a Cardinals’ game from the 1960’s or a White Sox game a decade before that. If more players would hustle, try for an RBI single or even an RBI grounder when the chance is there rather than whiffing while swinging for the fences, the game could bounce back to what it was as recently as when I began this blog. At that time, almost 4 years ago now, nearly every day provided at least one game worth writing about. If the MLB cupboard was there, starting in 2017 I began to look for exciting minor league games to talk about in this forum. Now, the site milb.com has made itself inaccessible to the point where the minors are no help on the frequent days when MLB doesn’t provide the sort of games I habitually write about in this space. Hopefully, more games like yesterday’s tilt in the Steel City will come about in the second half of what has been up to now a snore of a season.

FYI, in July I will pay tribute in this forum to the All-Star game. I appeal to any reader of this site to contact me and suggest which All-Star game or games I should profile. I hope_ to spotlight 10 All-Star games. I would enjoy doing it even more than I already do if some of you would suggest an All-Star game you watched, or even attended if you had that privilege.

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