I haven't watched a Pirates' game on TV all season, so I circled the calender for this night because I could get the Nats' feed on MASN2 (That may reveal GTOG's super-secret location). I planned on going 4 innings with this game, but I got kind of into it so I went...5 innings. Here are my reflections on the 57-77 Nats at PNC Park against the 44-89 Pirates. You don't need to manufacture any artificial excitement for this one.
Beautiful opening shots of the city and PNC park. The Pirates playing at PNC is like going to the bathroom in a diamond-plated toilet.
In light of the Rob Dibble firing, MASN2 gives us Ray Kight as the color guy with Bob Carpenter as the play-by-play announcer. Rough start for Ray. "A lot of things going on, uh, Bob. Suspensions."
Don't get me wrong, Nyjer Morgan is insane. But how can the Marlins possibly be offended by the fact that Morgan stole two bases when the Nats were losing by 10 in the 4th inning. The Nats were LOSING! Are they supposed to just stop playing the game in the 4th inning because they are down? I give Morgan credit for stealing those two bases. Anything that goes against the "unwritten rules of baseball" is a positive in my book. Throw at guys' heads, slide spikes first, yell at guys trying to catch pop ups like A-Rod did. Do it all. Look at it this way - it can't make baseball less interesting, right?
Livan Hernandez against Zach Duke is tonight's pitching matchup. A guy who was supposed to stop being good 5 years ago against a guy who was supposed to start being good 5 years ago.
The recap continues after the jump...
The Nats lineup tonight:
CF Nyjer Morgan
SS Ian Desmond
3B Ryan Zimmerman
1B Adam Dunn
RF Michael Morse
C Ivan Rodriguez
LF Justin Maxwell
2B Danny Espinosa
P Livan Hernandez
I evaluate baseball teams solely by how many players on their team I know. I know a lot of people on the Yankees. So I know they're good. I don't think I know a single player on Cleveland or Oakland or Arizona...so I'll assume those three teams stink. As for the Nats? I actually know 5 guys in that lineup and have heard some of the other names. According to that theory, the Nats should be better than last place. Nevertheless, I'm confused about how a guy named Danny Espinosa is not a relief pitcher.
Top of the 1st
Zach Duke takes the mound. 23 starts, 6-12 record, 5.17 ERA with opponents batting .317 against him. Opponents' batting average is my favorite stat - basically every batter against Duke is the 3rd best hitter in the National League (tied with some guy named Starlin Castro. Never heard of him. No wonder I'm in 10th place in my fantasy baseball league).
Nyjer fouls off the first pitch and doesn't kill anyone. Bullet dodged.
Bob sets Ray up to say something about the #2 hitter Ian Desmond...after 10 seconds of awkward silence, Ray chimes in with his mouth about 4 feet from the microphone, "Ian has his average up to .281." That would have been useful info had the screen not already flashed his stats 30 seconds ago. We'll call tonight Ray's learning curve.
Apparently this is one of the best umping crews in the league. Ray, practicing his non-sequiturs, launches into an anecdote about how an umpire died on the 4th pitch of the game in Ray's major league debut. Ray refers to this as a "fateful day, or whatever." In describing the dynamic between the regular umps and the crew chief, Ray reveals that "the crew chiefs are like daddy's to those young kids." Hearing a 60-year-old man say the word "Daddy" makes me uncomfortable. Meanwhile, nothing has happened in the game.
Desmond just attempted a bunt that rolled about 80 feet down the third base line while the Pirates waited for it to trickle foul (it did). That was actually exciting - reminded me of when someone gets high sticked in a hockey game and everyone waits to see if there is blood.
We learn that Duke has given up the most hits in the NL over the past 4 years, as Zimmerman laces a double to left. Only on the Pirates would a prospect go from 8-2 as a rookie and having the city abuzz to giving up the most hits in the league for 4 consecutive years...and still be the ace of the staff the whole time!
I love the dramatic infield shift when a power lefty comes up (like David Ortiz or Adam Dunn in this case). It's like in Little League when the terrible kid comes up to bat and the coach of the team in the field yells out at the top of his lungs, "Move up! Move up!" Except not as emotionally scarring.
Dunn grounds out to end the inning.
Bottom of the 1st
Pirates are last in the NL with a .239 batting average but somehow there is a team in MLB that's worse (Seattle at .236). I've heard of everyone on the Pirates except for John Bowker. If he was good, he'd hit a home run and then do a "It's the power of Bowwwkeerrrr!" commercial. But, alas, he's probably not.
McCutcheon is hitting only .277 with 12 homers this year. That means we're going to get worse prospects when we trade him to the Yankees. Relatedly, I wonder when the Red Sox are going to call Neil Walker up to the bigs?
Speaking of Walker, he was the 11th pick overall 6 years ago...how is it possible that the Pirates had a pick as low as 11?
The Pirates have scored 263 runs FEWER than their opponents. I capitalized that because the announcer said it like it was a bad thing. You know what? I think I agree.
Top of the 2nd
MASN2 puts up a graphic showing how the Nyjer Morgan/Sean Burnett for Lastings Milledge/Joel Hanrahan trade panned out and debate who got the best deal. It's like arguing about whose farts smell worse. Shortly after that, Bob deadpans, "This may not be a good matchup for the Buccos tonight." Bob, I'd like to know what is a good matchup for the Buccos?
Oh my god is baseball slow. I'd much rather be talking to Randy in the comments section.
The announcers speculate that Adam Dunn would hit 60 home runs if he played for the Pirates. I disagree. He'd bat .232 and beg to be traded at the All-Star break.
The screen informs us that Nats' left-fielder Justin Maxwell is batting .134. Cam Bonifay just bought his rookie card for $1,400.
Bottom of the 2nd
Joseph A. Bank scoffs at the Nats' "buy 2 tickets, get 2 free" plan. At Joseph A. Bank, you'd buy one full price ticket and get 11 free tickets, 3 sweaters, and 2 ties for 50% off (of equal or lesser value).
People always talk about how much they love going to baseball games, but it's interesting that no one likes to actually stay for a whole baseball game. I was at PNC back in June and the game was cruising along until the 6th inning and then it ground to an absolute halt. 53 minutes later, it was still the 6th inning. The cause? 5 pitching changes by the Pirates. When trying to maintain my interest during pitching changes, I understand how Josh Hamilton feels when trying to stay sober.
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Ray likes umps who expand the strike zone out to the side, but not up and down. It's like the opposite of how I like women.
John Bowker comes up with a man on first. He takes the first two pitches then steps out of the box, readjusts his batting gloves like O.J. and then stares at the third base coach for 30 seconds. What changed that he thinks he would be getting new signals? And let's remember, its John Bowker we're talking about - you can give him a signal to do something but that's hardly an indication that he can do it.
Danny Espinosa leads off the inning and we learn he was a communications major at Long Beach State. Espinosa lines it to right....gone! His first career home run. Ray: "There are just some players who understand this game of baseball just a notch above the rest of players. Those players usually become managers." So Espinosa hits his first home run and all of a sudden he's Tommy Lasorda.
Two quick groundouts...but then Ian Desmond comes within 2 inches of hitting another homer. I was just about to praise Zach Duke for getting a couple quick outs after a homerun. Sorry about that - I forgot this was Zach Duke. Won't make that mistake again.
It's like a day care center in the super expensive seats behind home plate - I always resent little kids who have great seats, but then I remember that I was 8 years old and sitting in Section B23 at the Civic Arena (before it became the blue seats) in 1992 when Mario banged home the Larry Murphy rebound in Game 1 against the Blackhawks. Was someone like Artistry, who is several years older than me and not in attendance that particular night, jealous of my seats the same way I get jealous of these kids? Undoubtedly. Maybe I'll start a blog with one of those kids in 15 years about the Pirates and call it, "Get To Our Rebuilding Plan."
Duke gets out of trouble with a strikeout to end the inning.
Bottom of the 3rd
Ronny Cedeno leads off with a double. I don't know what it means, but I just googled Cedeno because I thought he was the guy who hit the 2-run homer off Strasburg in Strasburg's debut (it was Delwyn Young). Cedeno should take it as a compliment that I thought he might have been able to do that.
Apparently this gives the Pirates "the chance to use Zach Duke's bunting ability." Phew, I thought we'd never get that opportunity. Can't wait. And....perfect bunt! Definitely worth the wait. Bob says, "2-4 if you're scoring." Really, people are scoring this game at home? They should get 2-4 years in a mental institution.
McCutcheon with the sac fly to right field - only his 43rd RBI this season. Bob and Ray then continue to talk about how when Ray was a manager, he would play the infield at "half way" rather than all the way in with a runner on 3rd and less than 2 outs in a 1-run game in the 3rd inning. Unfortunately, baseball is such a slow game that they actually have time to discuss this.
Pudge Rodriguez is firing the ball back to Livan harder than Livan is pitching. I guess the PED's aren't fully out of his system yet.
Base hit for Tabata between second and first basemen. When you get a meaningless base hit on a terrible team, it really must suck that hardly anyone cares. It's got to be even worse when you aren't good enough to be on anyone's fantasy team, so there literally is no one who cares.
Poise just asked me who I would rather meet - "Lemieux right now or Michael Jordan." That's a weird question...Is it 2010 Lemieux pitted against 1996 MJ? Or is it 2010 MJ? Either way, I'm insulted that he entertained the possibility that I wouldn't pick Lemieux. [Side note: I was in Cabo in March 2008 and MJ was there as well. He was frequenting the same clubs and bars as my friends and I were. I don't want to talk about what I heard he was up to, but I will tell you that I just went to his Wikipedia page to find out when his divorce was finalized. It was December 2006. All clear.]
Livan looks really disinterested in this game. I have a feeling that I have a similar look on my face. He's not even bending his knees when he throws. Just after I typed that, Ray says, "Just...looks like he's sittin' in the back yard throwing...to...one of his brothers. He doesn't have a whole lot of...the exertion...when he pitches." I'm actually very impressed with myself for picking up on this, having not watched a full baseball game since...ever. But Ray actually spins this observation into a positive, saying that its these mechanics that have enabled Livan to pitch over 200 innings every year. Ray is basically arguing that nonchalance is the key to being able to stay healthy so you can be mediocre for a long time. And you wonder why people can't relate to professional baseball players.
Hide yo kids, hide yo wives, and hide yo husbands....cause it's John Lannon against Paul Maholm tomorrow!
Garret Jones with a nice 2-run double to the opposite field. And the crowd goes tepid! Bob suggests that the Nats pitch around Garret Jones so that someone "unheralded" has to beat you. That would imply that Garret Jones is "heralded." Who is heralding Garret Jones?
Livan is now throwing 64 MPH. I think he's wearing down, but in all fairness, he's 61.
Top of the 4th
Zach Duke responds to Livan's 64MPH pitch with a 72MPH of his own. This is like a Pony League game.
There is a group of girls sitting along the third base line who are in the backgroud for right handed hitters. The certainly don't appear to be on the edge of their seats. I'd bet $1,000 that they don't know the score of the game, and would even through down $100 that they don't even know who the Pirates are playing.
Alvarez makes an error on a grounder with tons of spin, but no harm because Pudge immediately and predictably hits into a double play.
"Move up!! Move up!!" Justin Maxwell is up. (Now batting .132). He strikes out looking on three pitches.
Bottom of the 4th
Ryan Doumit with a moon shot over the right center wall. Nicely done. It broke 45 seconds of silence by the announcers. Livan, meanwhile, still seems more interested in devouring his chewing gum than topping 80 on the radar gun. Bob can't outright say that Livan is having a terrible night so instead he describes his pitches as "the soft offerings of Livan Hernandez." I don't think having a "soft offering" is ever a good thing, but that's a great title for his biography.
I have something in common with Livan - we both went into this game planning on participating for only the first 4 innings. Unfortunately, we're both stuck going into the 5th. I sense the wheels may come off for Livan next inning.
Top of the 5th
Danny Espinosa's youthful enthusiasm doubles the amount of enthusiasm in PNC Park. As the announcers wax poetic about his 4th major league game, Ray says, "I would have really gotten going if he would have choked up. I've seen him do nothing but right stuff. If he woulda choked up, I might have come right outta this booth." Thank god he completed that last sentence.
As Duke strikes out Livan after having K'd Espinosa, Bob asks, "Who does Duke think he is, Bob Veale?" I'd give Bob grief for a Beano Cook-esque dated reference, but I can't say I blame him for making it. If I was broadcasting a game that no one was watching, I'd see how many dated or inaccurate references I could make before anyone caught on. "Who does he think he is, Ken Shinkle?"
The buzz in the crowd is reminiscent of when you cant find your cell phone and you ask your roommate to call it and you hear a faint vibration somewhere under the couch cushions.
Bottom of the 5th
They just showed the replay of the Nyjer Morgan fight against the Marlins. The best part about baseball fights is that it is totally acceptable for the managers to participate. Wouldn't you love to see Bylsma race onto the ice to slam Bruce Boudreau?
Livan throws a pitch and falls flat on his face. I laughed out loud. The announcers say his foot slipped, but more likely he just wanted to sit down.
Dear Game, Please hurry up. Yours truly, Finesse.
Tabata with a base hit up the middle. I think the 5th inning is when you start actually rooting against everyone, including your own team, because all hits do at this point is prolong the game. Is it worse for Tabata that no one cares when he gets a hit or that people actually don't want him to get a hit because it delays the start of the Pierogi race?
Another base hit up the middle as we move closer to a pitching change. Insufferable. Livan really wants to be taken out...please, someone save us all and just do it already.
Garret Jones hits it off the absolute top of the wall in center field. Unlucky break for Jones that he doesn't get the HR but Alvarez laces one into right field to clean up the mess. 7-1 Pirates. Somehow the Nats didn't have the bullpen ready for this collapse...Ray and I saw it coming an hour ago.
The 43rd player in the league with the last name "Batista" comes in and immediately gives up a base hit before closing out the inning. 8-1 Pirates. I think I've had enough for the night. I'll be at the buffet with Livan.
What we learned:
Baseball is just as boring on TV as I thought it was. The only caveat is that I don't think my opinion is totally fair given that I haven't had any reason to be invested in baseball since 1992. It's really hard to judge a sport when the team you should be rooting for has no chance of winning. I can imagine that a Red Sox-Yankees playoff game at Fenway Park would be really exciting, but it's unlikely that any of us will experience anything like that as a Pirate fan. Kind of sad.
Update: The Bucs went on to win the game 8-5, raising their record to 45-89. A new Pirate generation is here.