A lot of stuff happened in this game tonight, but when games go 15 innings, I tend to focus on things that go wrong in the extra innings that I feel like I harp on the things that could've been done differently that alter the outcome of the game. There's other stuff from this one to get to, but before we I have to get the following stuff off my chest.
- Craig Monroe is slower than a glacier. I know that Nyjer Morgan was on-deck and Tony Beasley wanted to force a throw after McCutchen's double in the eleventh, but did anyone expect that to play out differently?
- I wasn't really a fan of bringing Ian Snell in to pinch-bunt in the fifteenth. I know our options were limited there, but hear me out. Jason Jaramillo was up next, and he was clearly gassed after catching 14 innings. He was almost an automatic second out up there. Basically, by having Snell bunt Andy LaRoche over, JR was saying, "I hope Jack Wilson knocks him in." This is why I sometimes feel like baseball managers don't think more than a move ahead.
- Bringing in Jeff Karstens over Matt Capps in the fifteenth was a huge mistake. Why end a game with your best reliever, who's available to pitch, on the shelf while your fifth starter struggles? At least Karstens' relief outing should ensure that Charlie Morton finds his way to Pittsburgh this week.
So the Pirates lost a 15-inning heartbreaker. That outcome obscures a lot of stuff from the actual game. Stuff like Andrew McCutchen going 4-for-7 with a single, a double, and two triples and one of his three outs being a flyball that he put a charge into that went to the warning track in dead center where it was tracked down by Nate McLouth in the 14th. Both of his triples were crucial in the Pirates' comeback from a 5-1 deficit and the second tied the game at six in the top of the seventh.
His first triple was probably the most impressive though. With the Pirates' down 5-1 in the sixth inning, he lead off by showing some really nice power to the opposite field gap in right center. "Alright," I thought to myself, "There's that first double." But it wasn't a double. He was on third base easily. There was nothing remarkable about this hit; it was just a line drive into the right center gap that got to the fence. It wasn't misplayed at all, Jeff Francouer and Nate McLouth didn't collide on the warning track, no one slipped en route to the ball, nothing. It was just a normal double into the gap fielded by an outfielder with a very good arm that McCutchen turned into an easy triple. The term "game changing speed" is thrown around a lot and sometimes, I'm not sure what it means. Watching McCutchen play, I get it. The best way that I can describe it is that he's faster than I can anticipate. After watching enough baseball, my brain expects certain physical reactions; players to be in certain places after balls are hit based on where and how hard the ball is hit, the situation, etc. McCutchen is consistently two or three steps ahead of where my anticipation places him every single time. It's something that you truly have to see to fully understand.
Of course, the counter to that is that McLouth had three hits and a homer for the Braves tonight while creating another run with a single and a steal of second base, which I'm sure will get plenty of play in Pittsburgh tomorrow. Of course, Tony Beasley also sent Jack Wilson home on his arm during the seventh inning rally and won the gamble in a big way that allowed the Pirates to tie the game, but I suppose that won't be talked about as much.
Finally, there was also Zach Duke. The defense has gotten a lot of credit for his turnaround this year, but tonight he gave up three home runs. Not much the defense can do there. It's OK, though. Duke is certainly due for a bit of regression, but there's no real reason to panic after just one bad start. The Braves seem to have his number this year, as they were responsible for his other worst start of the year back in April.
I don't think I have much more to say about this one other then, wow, what a game.