Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Embarrassing Ending - Braves 4, Pirates 3 (19 Innings)

For much of the night I watched a game that lasted almost seven hours and went over 19 innings with neither team having an extra base hit after the second or third inning or some junk, it took one of the worst calls in sports history to end the game.

The game lasted six hours and 39 minutes, a new Pirates record, and went on for 19 innings. It was a great baseball game to watch with an ending that no fan, not even a Brewers or Phillies fan, should have to go through.

I am literally speechless at the time I am writing this and at almost 2 a.m. (central time) I should have been to bed three hours ago but I stayed up to watch what turned out to be a great game up and down by both teams. The Pirates jumped out early and the Braves clawed back and forced extra innings, a lot of them.

The Braves got a break in the 19th inning (no really, the 19th) when pitcher Scott Proctor came up with one out and runners on the corners. Proctor hit a ground ball to Pedro Alvarez and he threw home to Michael McKenry with plenty of time and McKenry tagged Julio Lugo about six feet from home plate. Then, to everyone, and I mean EVERYONE’S, surprise home plate umpire Jerry Meals called Lugo safe. Game over.

You tell me:

I truly have no words for what happened here. There is no doubt in my mind that Lugo was out, even though he said he “never felt the tag” but it is plain as day. I understand that umpire make mistakes but this is more than a mistake. I am not sure what Meals is looking at or what the hell he was even doing to make that call. McKenry literally looked around after he saw Meals call him safe as if the plate moved and he was standing in the wrong place. I am utterly speechless and truly embarrassed as a fan of the game of baseball.

Both of these teams played their balls off for over six hours and threw it all on the line. Neither team had a position player left for about the last nine innings and both teams had relievers throw over 80 pitches. For the game to be ended on a play like this was horrible and might be the worst call I have ever seen in professional sports. Meals was bad all night with an inconsistent strike zone (for both teams), but there is a huge difference between that and what happened at home plate.

As most of you know I am a fan of the “human element” in baseball but this was so bad that it has me rethinking if I want replays in the game of baseball.

Among all this horrid home plate umpiring was an outstanding job by the Pirates bullpen. Everyone except Hanrahan threw and combined to go 13.1 innings only giving up nine hits, striking out 10 and only giving up the lone “earned” run. Jason Grilli went three scoreless innings and threw 50 pitches while only giving up three hits and Daniel McCutchen absolute pitched his balls off going 5.1 innings, throwing 91 pitches and only giving up three hits and the final run. This pen has been one of the most unsung heros of the team and tonight they showed that they can sack up when you need them to. Unreal job.

Hit the jump for the rest of the recap. I wrote most of this during extra innings around the 14th and 15th innings and since it is really late and I am kind of out of gas I am not really going to update it. Enjoy it.

-Karstens didn’t have his best stuff tonight. He was only able to go five innings, which should be good considering the lack of command that he had from the start of the game. In his complete game shutout a few starts ago he threw 83 pitches while throwing 96 pitches tonight in five innings. He walked three batters after only walking two batters the entire rest of the month while also giving up six hits and being tagged for three runs. It could have been a lot worse for Karstens but he got out of some big jams in his five innings and really held the fort to get as many innings in to help the pen.

-Not many good things tonight for the Pirates. They scored three runs pretty quickly off starter Tommy Hanson via a Neil Walker triple, a Pedro Alvarez single and a Michael McKenry bomb to left field. Walker was the bright spot at the plate with three hits and Cedeno and McKenry each had two hits.

-It must be stated that the best job, of anyone tonight, is far and away the Pirates bullpen.

-There was a lot of bad baseball tonight and a lot of it was from a game management standpoint from Clint Hurdle. First questionable call came in the top of the ninth inning when he had runners on the corners with one out in a tie game. McKenry was on third base and Xavier Paul was up at bat. The Braves call a timeout and have a chat on the pitcher mound, probably telling everyone to watch for the squeeze. First pitch and what do the Pirates do? Squeeze. Pitchout, McKenry dead to rights. You gotta give Paul a chance to put the ball in play. I don’t much mind the call as much as most but the Braves obviously knew that the Pirates were going to try this and they went for the first pitch gamble anyways.

-Along the same lines on the failed squeeze attempt was the absolute horseshit effort by Paul. It was a pitchout, but it wasn’t too far off the plate and yet Paul barely puts the bat out and then pulls it back. I don’t know if any of you guys have played baseball or softball before but if there is one rule in baseball it’s that on a squeeze you do anything, I mean anything, to get the bat on the ball. You throw the bat at the ball if you have to. Paul pulled the bat completely back and gave zero effort to protect the runner at third base. This angered be 100 times more than the squeeze call and it was absolutely inexcusable for Paul to do that.

-Another head scratcher was Hurdle asking Pedro Alvarez to bunt in the top of the 13th inning after Andrew McCutchen reached via a leadoff walk. I am sorry you don’t do that. Let Pedro hit. I don’t mind bunting players over but Lyle Overbay is hitting behind Alvarez and he hasn’t been worth anything in the last month. You are giving up an out with Alvarez and pretty much giving up another out with Overbay batting. Didn’t like the call, at all.

-A lot of bad things tonight, but this is just one game in the grand scheme of things. The Pirates could really ill afford to go into a long game like this as part of 20 straight games and it will be interesting to see if they choose to go to Indy to get some bullpen help for some of the games coming up with the relievers pitching a good bit tonight. Not a good way to start, in that aspect.

Buckle up for two more games with Atlanta.

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