I was incredibly lucky to be at PNC Park for this one. For one, any visit to PNC Park is a happy one for me. It’s a truly beautiful place, even taken out of a baseball context. For a Pirates fan like me, it is almost heaven. The field is green and immaculate, the skyline is perfect, and there’s just a…feeling…about it that I can’t really describe. I want to say it’s a buzz, or an excitement, but that’s not entirely accurate. I really don’t know how to put it into words, but it’s truly incredible and I don’t feel the way that I do when I walk into that building many other places.
In addition, this was one heck of a fun game to watch. The offense was exciting. I had a good laugh at Josh Willingham in the first, as he completely lost a Josh Harrison fly ball in the sun (right after my father said “boy, I’d hate to be in left with the sun beating down like that.”) Then was elated when the ball carried in the heat to become a home run. I laughed as Ryan Doumit’s inability to play catcher was one of the Twins’ main problems tonight. (I don’t have as good a sense of this as I would have watching on television, but I’ve seen Scott Diamond pitch before. He tends to hit his spots but he was getting a lot of ball calls tonight. I think it might have been because he was around the plate, but Doumit failed to frame the pitches properly.)
Furthermore, the excitement of the Pirates’ aggressive play on the basepaths continued. They executed a double steal where Josh Harrison got a HUGE jump off of Diamond and a hit and run scored a run that would not have done so otherwise. It’s truly fun to watch, whether you agree with it or not.
My favorite moment of the game was Andrew McCutchen’s home run in the seventh. I had gone to the bathroom during the seventh inning stretch and emerged right at the start of McCutchen’s at bat. Since I couldn’t get back to my seat, I found a spot behind a railing where I could see what was happening. I discovered that if I was on my tiptoes I could see everything, whereas flat-footed I couldn’t see McCutchen. I must have been an odd site: a (relatively) grown man popping up onto and coming down off of his tiptoes with every pitch. When McCutchen worked the count full, I thought to myself “he’s going to get one to hit.” He hit a fly ball to left field. I couldn’t see the ball, as it was blocked by the next level of PNC Park. Instead, I watched the left fielder. As he ambled over to the corner, I knew that if it was a fair ball it was going to be a home run. When I saw the ball dip down inside the foul pole, I literally jumped into the air in joy. I felt like I was ten years old again, concerned with nothing but the current at bat. It was a breath of fresh air and absolutely one of the best feelings that I have had at any sporting event.
As for the pitching, Kevin Correia did what he does very often. He got people out without giving me any indication that he should have been getting people out. It was nice to see that his slider and changeup were not the same speed as his fastball, but I still don’t see him as anything more than a barely passable innings eater. Still, it was good to see him get through five scoreless innings and even better to see Hurdle pull him before it was too late.
Today may be the first time that Clint Hurdle managed his bullpen the way that I would have managed the bullpen (with the possible exception of using Juan Cruz instead of Jared Hughes). In fact, today may be the first time that Clint Hurdle managed any facet of a baseball game the way that I would have managed it.
If not for McCutchen’s home run, I probably would have eulogized Tony Watson’s performance in the sixth inning jam that he bailed Correia out of. With runners on first and third and one out (and the runner on third being the notoriously fast Ben Revere) Watson got Justin Morneau to pop out, which got me excited. He then walked Trever Plouffe, which was fine with me. Plouffe has displayed insane power so far this year, and I really didn’t like the lefty-righty matchup there for Watson. Instead, he faced Doumit, who is a much worse hitter from the right side of the plate. When he struck him out, my response was wholly involuntary and I am sure over the top. I vaguely remember clenching my fists in front of me and yelling “YEAH!” as loud as I could. I was so thoroughly caught up in the moment. It was truly wonderful.
So thank you Pirates, especially Tony Watson and Andrew McCutchen for an incredible experience at the ballpark tonight. It let me recapture childlike intensity and immersion for a few hours and reminded me why I love baseball so much.
There’s not much analysis here, but I think that’s appropriate given my experience with this game.