This is how a game unfolds:
For 3 1/2 innings, you sit on the edge of your seat, knowing that Anibal Sanchez is better than AJ Burnett (both tonight and all season). Those goose eggs can't keep going up on both sides all night. How long can any pitching staff keep the Tigers off the board? How many runs can the Pirates really score against Sanchez?
Then Neil Walker hits a home run. This is what you say to yourself: "How crazy would it be if the Pirates won two straight games against the Tigers by a 1-0 score on Neil Walker solo home runs." You know that this is a ludicrous thing to think, but you let it slip into your mind anyway. This season has been magic for the Pirates, right? What's more magical than two straight 1-0 wins on solo homers by the same guy?
And then the second that you let that thought slip into your head, the Tigers are winning 3-1. Of course they are. What team could keep Miguel Cabrera quiet for a full four-game series? Who really thought the Pirates were going to shut the Tigers out twice in a row? Nobody. Not even you, not even after you let that stupid thought about the Neil Walker homers sneak into your brain.
This is where you stay for a few innings. Nothing much happens. Anibal Sanchez cruises, AJ Burnett doesn't give up many more runs. You shuffle things around on your desk at work and decide to run home before you go to trivia. As you close the computer down during the top of the seventh, you think about how bored Tim Neverett sounds doing the broadcast. You don't put your headphones in on the walk to your car. Baseball seasons are long, and even the most dedicated fans don't have time for 9 innings every single night. You get to the car, though, and the radio is still on the station that your bluetooth speaker broadcasts too. You put the game on. The Pirates are losing 3-1 with one out in the bottom of the seventh. You live less than ten minutes away from where you work.
Garrett Jones singles. Russell Martin walks. This might be something, you think. You stop wondering if there's time to watch an episode of Arrested Development and shower before trivia starts. This is what happens in the next two pitches:
- Pedro Alvarez doubles in both runs to tie the game.
- Travis Snider singles in Pedro Alvarez.
Three pitches later, this happens:
- Jordy Mercer lays down a perfect suicide squeeze to score Snider.
Five pitches and the whole game has changed. This is not a boring loss. This is an exciting win.
An added bonus to this win is something Steve Blass mentioned on the broadcast early in the game. By getting some run support they had enough of a lead so that Melancon got the night off.
This is world-class, top-shelf writing. Nobody--and I do mean NOBODY--is writing about baseball as well as this is written.
Pat, that is EXACTLY how I listened! On the way home from work, Walker homers. While eating dinner, nothing happens. Then the Tigers score, and after a little bit I say to Mrs, "Well, they're probably not going to win this one. I'm going for ice cream, what do you want?" And driving back from Mountain Freeze: double, double, squeeze!
I've gotten pretty pissed at Hurdle for all the other squeezes that haven't worked, but they were all worth it for this one. This was a statement. This was a Muhammed Ali wind up and hit you with the other fist. This team can play. I'm going to say it now, in May: this year the Bucs make the playoffs.