Archive for August, 2006


Pirates sweep Cubs with 2nd straight 11-inning walk-off win

Today’s game against the Cubs was unbelievable. Both teams tallied 20 hits and the game was won, for a second straight day, in the 11th inning.

The Pirates battled back from an early deficit and took a healthy lead in the middle of the ballgame. However, the Cubs managed to tie the game before the end of regulation, sending the game to extra innings for the second day in a row. The 10th was scoreless for both teams.

In the 11th, Pirates reliever Marty McLeary was victimized for 2 runs, giving the Cubs a 9-7 lead. This seemed like the end of the line for Pirates, but they proved their detractors wrong. Xavier Nady led off the bottom of the 11th with a single. Ryan Doumit grounded out, advancing Nady to second. Jose Castillo then singled, driving in Nady, reducing the Cubs’ lead to a single run with only one out. With Castillo on first, Humberto Cota came through with a pinch-hit single, advancing Castillo to second. This brought the Pirates back to the top of the order. Chris Duffy flied out, leaving the Pirates with two men on, but with two outs. Jose Bautista managed to draw a walk from Ryan Dempster, like last night, but this time it loaded the bases rather than forcing home the winning run. Bautista’s walk brought Freddy Sanchez to the plate, who is hitting over .400 with runners in scoring position. On the first pitch, Sanchez hit a bouncer down the first base line. Incredibly, as Derrek Lee fielded it and stepped on first, for what appeared to be the final out, the first base umpire called the ball foul. Just when it seemed that the game was over, eucatastrophe struck and the Pirates were given another chance. Sanchez used that chance well, slapping a subsequent pitch into right field, driving in Castillo and Cota to win the ballgame, 10-9.

The Cubs will be understandably disappointed with their series at PNC Park – not just because they were swept, but because they had victory in their grasp in two straight games only to watch it slip away. After a tough series with the Astros, the sweep of the Cubs provides a nice lift to the Pirates, who have done an admirable job of not giving up when the cause seemed hopeless.

Today’s victory puts the Pirates at 53-81 (.396) on the season and 23-21 (.523) since the All-Star Break. The last two games have also improved the Pirates’ record in 1-run games to 18-27 (.400).


Pirates walk off with victory

People who talk about baseball are fond of saying that good teams are able to take advantages of mistakes made by the other team. This was true tonight at PNC Park where the Cubs botched 3 potential double plays, including a potential game-ending double play.

After having gone scoreless for 4 innings, the Pirates scored 3 runs in the 5th, 1 in the 6th and 1 in the 7th. With the game tied 5-5 at the end of regulation, the game went to extra innings. In the 11th, Matt Capps walked two and gave up a run on a single by Derrek Lee. This put the Pirates in a pressure situation, needing a run to stay alive. In the bottom of the inning, Ronnie Paulino grounded out to start things off. Humberto Cota then singled on a high chopper that bounced off the glove of Aramis Ramirez and headed into foul territory. He could have made it to second but played it conservatively, sticking at first. Ian Snell came in to pinch run for Cota. With one out and a runner at 1st, Castillo singled up the middle into center field, where weak-throwing Juan Pierre was unable to prevent Snell from advancing to 3rd. This left runners at 1st and 3rd. In the next at bat, Joe Randa hit what appeared to be a routine double play ball. However, 2nd baseman Freddie Bynum missed the throw from the shortstop and the ball rolled into right field, allowing Snell to score from 3rd. What looked like a game-ending double play turned into the tying run for the Pirates. Castillo advanced to 3rd on the error, leaving runners on 1st and 3rd with still only 1 out. Next, Dusty Baker opted to walk Chris Duffy to load the bases and create the force-out possibility at home. However, this move backfired when Ryan Dempster walked Jose Bautista, forcing in the winning run.

The game looked like it would be added to the long list of Pirates one-run losses this season, but through the inability of the Cubs to turn the double play, it was added to the Pirates’ growing list of one-run victories.

You’ve got to love the walk-off walk. I’ve never seen a walk-off walk live, as far as I can remember. However, I have seen a walk-off throwing error. In June of 2004, I saw the Pirates beat the Cardinals as part of 10 or 11 game win streak. In this particular game, Jack Wilson had hit what was surely a double and he was trying to stretch it into a triple. Pujols took the relay from the outfield and should have had plenty of time to get Wilson before he reached third, but his throw to third was off the mark and went out of play and into the tunnel connecting to the dugout. Wilson made it home on the throwing error to win the game.

My friend Dan has seen a walk-off balk live. He said it is possibly the most anti-climactic ways for a game to end. At least with a walk-off walk, you’re watching the count. The count gets to 3 balls and you’re thinking, “If the pitcher doesn’t throw a strike here…” But with the walk-off balk, it comes out of the blue. He could do it on a 0-0 count.

There are all kinds of crazy plays in baseball, which is one of the reasons that I love it. On any given day you could be watching and see a play that you would never have imagined could happen. This unpredictability and the interplay it has had with the official rules is one of the reasons I’m excited to read The Official Rules of Baseball: An Anecdotal Look at the Rules of Baseball and How They Came To Be by David Nemec. I mentioned that I would be reading this book after I finished the book I was reading about the Pirates. I finished it today, and, as luck would have it, I received my next book in the mail today. So, I’m all set. Maybe I’ll write about the Pirates book again. It was really interesting and definitely recommended reading for the Pirates fan who is interested in learning more about the club.


Digital SLR?

I think I mentioned a couple of entries back that my trip to Pittsburgh got me thinking about getting into photography again. I have a couple of friends who have nice SLR cameras and I like the idea of being able to take really nice pictures. For most applications, my point and shoot camera is fine. It takes reasonably good pictures and is small enough to stick in my pocket when I’m heading out to some kind of social event. However, I have been frustrated by its limitations when it comes to shooting landscapes and other more specialized types of pictures. I’d like to learn how to take good pictures with an SLR and it seems like the easiest (though not necessarily cheapest) way to do this is with a digital SLR.

I’ve been looking around online at the various entry-level offerings by the big camera manufacturers, like Nikon and Canon. At the moment, I don’t know enough about SLR photography to really understand the differences and evaluate which company has the better offering. For those of you who have a digital SLR or experience with SLR photography in general, I would appreciate hearing your comments. I don’t have the money right now to go out and buy one of these cameras, but I’m keeping an eye on them for the future. Plus, my birthday and Christmas aren’t all that far away.


Recent Acquisitions

Yesterday, we took a family trip to the local mall (the Cambridgeside Galleria). We each had an objective for the trip:

    • Heather wanted to get new sunglasses
    • I wanted to trade some of my N64 games for others
    • Elizabeth wanted to get some donut holes from Dunkin’ Donuts
      I’m sorry to say that Elizabeth is the only one who achieved her objective. I went to Electronics Boutique to see if I could pick up any N64 games but they didn’t have a single one in stock. I had brought 11 games with me to use for trading purposes, to no avail. The manager there was very helpful and called other stores in the area, but it turns out that no local store has a good selection of N64 games. In particular, I was looking for the following games:

        • The New Tetris
        • Mario Kart 64
        • Super Smash Bros.
        • Excite Bike 64
        • Mario Tennis
        • F-Zero X
          If anybody reading this has any of these games and would like to either sell or trade them, let me know. I have the following games that I can trade:

            • FIFA 98
            • Ogre Battle 64
            • Perfect Dark
            • Wrestlemania 2000
            • Space Station Silicon Valley
            • Kobe Bryant in NBA Courtside
            • NHL Breakaway 98
            • NBA Hangtime
            • WCW vs. NWO World Tour
            • NBA Jam 99
            • WCW/NWO Revenge
            • Vigilante 8
              I could also maybe be persuaded to trade the following games under the right circumstances:

                • Wave Race
                • Star Wars – Rogue Squadron
                • Spiderman
                • 1080 Snowboarding
                • All-Star Baseball 2000
                • Super Mario 64
                  In the meantime, I’m working on completing the professionel-level championship in Beetle Adventure Racing. I’m getting a lot better and tracks that I used to find impossible I can now win or place 2nd.


It’s 3am and I’m still awake

Being awake at 3am is a bad thing when you have a toddler who gets up between 6am and 6:30. She doesn’t understand that Saturdays are for sleeping in. I had no intention of staying up so late, but a number of events conspired to keep me up. First, I foolishly drank a Coke at like 9:15 after having had coffee earlier. Then, around 10, I started playing Beetle Adventure Racing on my N64. I spent quite a while playing and I made a lot of progress in the game, but the thrill of racing got my mind going, making it difficult to just head off to bed.

While waiting to become sleepy again, I paid attention to how my fantasy baseball team was doing. Unfortunately, this got me worked up, too, since one of my closers came on in a non-save situation, only to find himself in line to pick up the win if the Angels were able to get a run out of a bases loaded, 1 out situation. I was sitting in front of the computer, watching the game on MLB.TV and whispering (Heather and Elizabeth were asleep) shouts at the batter, Mike Napoli, to not ground into a double play. Fortunately, he came through with a sacrifice fly to drive in a run and win the game for the Angels and Francisco Rodriguez. With that unexpected win I extended my lead against my opponent this week.

With that game out of the way, I turned my attention to the Dodgers/Diamondbacks game, which had just gone into extra innings. I have a player on each team, but both began the game on the bench. Later in the game, they were both brought in to pinch hit and then play their normal positions. As I kept track of the statistical categories I was winning and losing, I found myself rooting for various things to happen in the game. Unfortunately, my guys (and others) didn’t really help me out in seeing my desires fulfilled. And, I stayed up to see them do nothing for me… That said, I am leading my opponent 11-3 right now. If I can hold it together through the weekend and the two guys ahead of me continue to lose, I could get into the championship bracket in the playoffs…
Ok, I’m going to bed now.


Pirates: What will become of the season?

The Pirates are now 128 games into the 162-game season.  What should we expect for the rest of the season?

Since the All-Star Break, the Pirates are 20-18 or .526, so it’s clear that their play has improved substantially from the beginning of the season.  Still, their poor record prior to the All-Star Break (30-60; .333) will keep them out of the post-season for yet another year.  With the Wild Card all but out of reach, what can we hope for from this season?  Based on the fact that the Pirates’ cumulative record for the year is 50-78 with 34 games remaining, here is a summary of some possible outcomes, from best to worst.

If the Pirates:

  1. win all of their remaining 34 games, they will finish at 84-78 (.519)
  2. only lose 3 of their remaining games, they finish at 81-81 (.500)
  3. win 15 of their remaining games, they finish above .400 (65-97)
  4. win at least 13 of their remaining games, they avoid a 100-loss season
  5. lose all of their remaining games, they finish at 50-112 (.309), to tie the 1952 Pirates for 2nd place in most losses in a season for the franchise.  The 1952 Pirates lost 112 games in a season of only 154 games for a win percentage of .273.  First place goes to the 1890 Pirates, who lost 113 games in a season that was only 136 games long, for a win percentage of .169.

I don’t think that options 1, 2, or 5 are at all likely.  Given their recent play, I think that both 3 and 4 are attainable.  In fact, I expect the Pirates to win at least half of their remaining games, which would exceed both outcomes 3 and 4.  Unfortunately, at this point, having a season like that of the 1909 Pirates is out of reach for this year.  However, perhaps the Pirates will be able to turn it around next year and replicate the .724 win percentage the 1909 Pirates recorded on their way to their first World Championship.


Recent eMusic Downloads

Yesterday morning I had 104 downloads remaining on my eMusic account, which I had to use by midnight or they disappeared. So, I got busy and downloaded some music. Here’s what I got:

  1. Chris Rice – Smell the Color 9
  2. Half-Handed Cloud – Thy Is A Word And Feet Need Lamps
  3. Trans Am – Trans Am
  4. Papa M – Hole of Burning Alms
  5. Mogwai – Mr. Beast
  6. Tortoise – A Lazarus Taxon
  7. Denison Witmer – Of Joy & Sorrow

While I’m pretty familiar (i.e. I have almost all of their other albums) with some of these artists (Chris Rice, Mogwai, Tortoise), I don’t have any other albums by Half-Handed Cloud, Trans Am, Papa M, or Denison Witmer. It turns out, though, that the guy behind Half-Handed Cloud (John Ringhofer) plays trombone for Sufjan Stevens, whom I really like. Sufjan reciprocates by playing drums on Ringhofer’s album. I like Ringhofer’s voice – it reminds me of Doug Martsch of Built to Spill. Adrian described Half-Handed Cloud as “total ADD music”. I think that’s about right.

Also, the guy from Papa M is David Pajo of Slint fame. I have all of Slint’s albums, so this album doesn’t represent completely unfamiliar territory for me.

Anyway, as I listen to these albums and get familiar with them, I may post reviews here. Of course, my eMusic account rolled over last night, so I have another 90 downloads for this month, which I have to figure out how to use. I can’t really keep up with this pace. I think I’ll need to downgrade my subscription to the 40 tracks/month for $10. In the meantime, if you have any recommendations on how I should use this month’s downloads, let me know.


Seeking recommendations: good N64 games?

Today I scored myself an N64 from a moving sale for $25. This included the console, 4 controllers, and 20+ games. The former owner seems to have a real love of wrestling games, which, I have to confess are not my preferred type of game. This leaves me with about 16 (admittedly not all wrestling) games that I’ll probably never play but that I might be able to use to trade for better games. I’m not super familiar with the games that are available for the N64, so I’m looking for recommendations. I definitely want the New Tetris. Any other games I should look for?


The Pittsburgh Pirates: An Illlustrated History

Those of you who knew me well in high school may remember me as someone who doesn’t really read books. I wasn’t so much into the book reading while in college, either (other than textbooks and those given as assignments). I’m not sure what changed, but during grad school I got into reading. I think I may have gotten my start with The Lord of the Rings while A) I should have been studying for my oral qualifying exam and 2) Heather was pregnant and went to bed at like 8pm every night. Anyway, I’ve read a number of interesting books over the last couple of years including, but not limited to The Ragamuffin Gospel by Brennan Manning (highly recommended) and The Numbers Game by Alan Schwarz (also highly recommended but for different reasons).

Right now I’m reading The Pittsburgh Pirates: An Illustrated History by Bob Smizik. It’s an excellent introduction to the history of the Pittsburgh Pirates for people who maybe grew up as Pirates fans and heard names being thrown around but never really knew who these people were and why they were important. It covers Honus Wagner, Pie Traynor, Paul and Lloyd Waner, Ralph Kiner and others as it recounts the history of a very fine ballclub. I would highly recommend it to anyone who would like to know more about the Pirates. Especially at a time when it is difficult to be a Pirates fan, it is refreshing to read this book and connect with the distinguished history of the team.

On Deck: The official rules of baseball: An anecdotal look at the rules of baseball and how they came to be by David Nemec. I just ordered this book and I look forward to reading it once I’m finished with the Pirates book. When I’m finished with that, I may read Bucs: The Story of the Pittsburgh Pirates by John McCollister. This book was published in 2002, whereas the book I’m reading now was published in 1991, before the Pirates took another turn for the worse.


Dear New Jersey,… Sincerely, Pennsylvania

Dear New Jersey,

Please accept our gift of Philadelphia. We are sure you will enjoy having it more than we have.


This is my proposed solution to the fact that Pittsburgh gets screwed by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania every year when it’s time to distribute state funds. Because Philadelphia is the single largest city in Pennsylvania its politicians wind up dominating state politics, sending the vast majority of state money from Harrisburg eastward, leaving Pittsburgh out in the cold. This results in, among other things, Pittsburgh’s roads and bridges being seriously neglected (like this one, where the bridge’s incessantly crumbling concrete led to a protective roof being built over the road below to prevent said concrete from hitting motorists).

While this move would certainly be a financial boon to Pittsburgh, I believe it would benefit Philadelphia as well. From the brief time I have spent in Philadelphia and New Jersey, I believe that the city is a good fit for the Garden State. There is certainly a huge disconnect between the average lifestyles and attitudes of people living in Pittsburgh and those of their Philadelphia counterparts. However, since Philadelphia is practically in New Jersey anyway, the attitudes of people from the Garden State and the City of Brotherly Love line up very well. So, Philadelphia would get to join its hectic-pace-of-life brethren and the rest of Pennsylvania would be out from under its shadow.

In addition to the financial implications of this move, there would be psychological and emotional advantages as well. For example, western Pennsylvanians wouldn’t have to suffer under a governor who is a rabid Eagles fan. And, the absence of Philadelphia would give the rest of Pennsylvania the ability to actually elect former Steeler, Lynn Swann, who, let’s face it, will never get any votes in Philadelphia.


August 2006

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