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.

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August 2006

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