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Pirate Bandwagon Hits a Wall In The Desert

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On this week's edition of the Pittsburgh Post Gazette's sports podcast, host Jerry Micco and his two Terry Shields and Dan Gigler were discussing Pirates fans' reactions to the two wins that opened the season.

They talked about the euphoria that the two wins had created in town. They talked about new great expectations. Then they pointed out the obvious — that two wins do not a season make. This was a team that hadn't looked all that good in spring training. Expectations were understandably low. Two wins were nice, but reasonable people had to recognize that this was a team that probably would be doing well to win 70 games, and that it was perhaps a mistake to hop so quickly aboard the Pirates bandwagon.

For some, the bandwagon stopped Thursday afternoon when the Dodgers only managed 11 runs off Pirates pitching. For me it probably stopped last night in the bottom of the third inning of Game No. 4, the first away game of the season against the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Charlie Morton was on the mound. He had just struck out five of the first six batters he's faced. According to Pirates' broadcasters, his fastball is unhittable. Everything looks good.

Except! At the plate the Pirates had managed to leave the bases loaded in the first inning after leadoff man Akinori Iwamura failed to score from second on a Lastings Milledge single. They left two on in the top of the third. Leaving men on base had been a problem in the last couple of games. Foreshadowing?

Then came the bottom of the third. D'backs pitcher Rodrigo Lopez led off the inning. He had two hits in some 50-odd at bats in the majors. With a 1-1 count, Pirates color commentator John Wehner pointed out how effective Morton's fastball has been and that there is no way Lopez will get near it. Does he throw a fastball? "He hung a breaking ball," Wehner screams in disbelief, as Lopez dings an opposite field single. "What was he thinking?" Wehner moans.

What was he thinking, indeed? After that, Conor Jackson singled to left. Two batters later, Justin Upton drove a single to center, loading the bases. Wehner is still on the Lopez hit. "You can't throw a breaking ball to a guy that has two hits in his career." Ex-Pirate Adam LaRoche, who never seemed to get a hit until July here in Pittsburgh (and was also hitless for the season at that point), drives a ball to center and two runs score.

Wehner is right, you can't throw a breaking ball to a pitcher with two hits in the majors.

Then Mark Reynolds is hit by a pitch, reloading the bases. Perhaps Morton is a little upset. Who could blame him? After striking out Miguel Montero for the second out, Chris Young clears the bases with a 400+ foot grand slam.

"All because he decides to throw a breaking ball to the pitcher," Wehner says with some snarky resignation.

The inning isn't over, and the Pirates would go onto lose 9-1. But I turn off the radio. The Pirates bandwagon stops here. For the moment. Baseball fans are suckers for punishment.

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About Jack Goodstein

  • Matthew T. Sussman

    Well … one could focus on any one of those batters and it would’ve prevented another four runs. I’m also not sure if a breaking ball is any easier to hit for a pitcher than a fastball.