Coors Field, Wrigley Field, No–Madness in Pittsburgh

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Hi friends. Here’s how I see baseball on this Saturday, August 8. If you followed last night’s game between the Tigers and Pirates in Pittsburgh via Twitter, you could be forgiven for thinking whoever was tweeting had been into the Iron City. If you’ve never been to Pittsburgh, I.C. is a truly foul brew that caused me the worst on-air hiccups I ever suffered. The Tigers’ 17–13 win in 11 innings was so nuts that the unflappable Joe Block who does radio for the Pirates called the visiting Tigers “The Detroit Lions” once, very late in the contest. It was just that kind of game.

It shouldn’t have been that kind of game. Facing a Tigers’ team that hadn’t played in 4 days, Pirates’ starting pitcher Chad Kuhl only gave up one run, a solo bomb by C.J. Cron, the Tigers’ only home run of the night. The snapper is, Kuhl only lasted 4 innings because of that millennial pitching disease, the pitch count. When pitchers were allowed to be men, he would have kept rolling. His team was up 4–1 after 4. As it was, even if the Pirates hadn’t blown it, he wouldn’t have qualified for a win. The bull pen gave up 16 runs over the next 7 innings, including a 6-run 7th and a 4-run 11th that finally sunk the gallant Pirates.

Down 4–1 in the top of the 5th, the Tigers put up 4 runs, helped by 3 bases-loaded walks. Against starter Matthew Boyd, who would give up 7 runs in less than 5 innings, The Pirates took their turn. They scored 3 runs on Phillip Evans’ first major league home run in their half of the 5th. That was followed by a Tiger run in the 6th, then 6 more in the 7th to give the visitors a 12–7 lead. Then the Buccos took their turn again. They put up 2 in the 8th, and with 2 out, nobody on, down to their final strike twice, two singles and a home run by Adam Frazier squared things at 12. Buck Farmer and Joe Jimenez were the two Tigers’ pitchers involved, Farmer giving up 2 in the home 8th, and Jimenez giving up the game-tying rally.

That’s when 2020 intervened. In a sane world, these adult children would have played the 10th inning and beyond using the same rules that were valid for the first 9 innings. Not this year, and if God is kind to us, what happened next will ONLY_ happen in 2020. Starting in the 10th, each team got a free cookie on second base, as if they hadn’t scored enough runs in the first 9. Each side scored in the 10th. At that point, the Pirates, in this day of a 30-man roster, ran out of pitchers they had planned to use. Chad Kuhl had been brilliant, striking out 7 before getting an undeserved hook. Some of their relievers-Steven Brault, Yacksel Rios and Miguel Del Poso were dreadful. Jeff Hartlieb and Richard Rodriguez did well enough but neither worked more than an inning. Nick Turley was just bad enough to give up a run in the 10th. For their 8th pitcher of the night, They turned to Dovydas Neverauskas who had pitched in 3 games out of the last 4, which is almost unheard of now. He showed he needed rest. He was pounded for 4 runs in the Tigers’ half of the 11th. Carson Fulmer, the Tigers’ 8th pitcher wrapped things up.

The Tigers hadn’t put up 17 runs in a game in 3 years, since a 19–9 hammering of the Mariners in 2017. Tigers’ manager Ron Gardenhire, in the understatement of the new season, said “crazy stuff happened in this game.” At least, he was around to see the end. The Pirates’ manager, someone named Derek Shelton got tossed in the midst of the Tigers’ 6-run uprising in the 7th.

These two teams put up a 13–10, 13-inning game in frigid Detroit early in 2018. Joe Block, the Pirates’ radio announcer was there for that game. After working with me in his salad days, he knew he should dig back and find some older crazy Pirate game, and he found “a lulu,” as it would have been called then. He unearthed a game in 1929 where the Cubs got 8 runs in the last inning, the Pirates put up 3 in their half and the Cubs ended up with a 20–15 win. Surprisingly, that happened at cavernous Forbes Field, not Wrigley where most of the highest scoring games were played before Coors Canaveral opened in 1995. What makes this sport so amazing is, two of the lowest scoring teams in the game can get together and produce last night’s 17–13, 11-inning game.

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