There were plenty of awful occurrences on Pittsburgh's side Wednesday night, but it's the subtle things that occurred that were truly horrifying, and they all happened late in the game.
In the 8th inning, behind in the game 5-1, the Pittsburgh Pirates brought in Evan Meek, their best reliever. On what planet does a team bring in their best reliever down four runs? Typically ace relievers are used to protect late-inning leads, or keep a game tied. Games where the team is down, especially by more than two runs, are where 2nd line relievers get their appearances in. Can you conceive of the White Sox bringing in Matt Thornton to work an inning when they're down four? That's Scott Linebrink time! This suggests one of two awful possibilities: either Pirates management is bereft of proper situations to bring Meek in and wanted to give him work (unlikely seeing as he pitched Monday), or worse, that being down 4 runs in the 8th inning qualifies as a close game for the Pirates.
Going full-on against this logic is the behavior of Brendan Donnelly; who became visibly irritated in the top of the 9th inning with the score at 5-2 when Juan Pierre began to get active on the basepaths. Juan reached on an error, and by the time he had come around to score with the help of 3 Pirate errors, the game had sunk into the depths of the macabre. But still, with the score at 5-2, Donnelly seemed legitimately irritated that Pierre was still actively trying to run up the score. At 5-2! The Pirates may be the worst offense in the majors, but does a three-run lead count as a blowout to the point where all involved should take their foot off the gas, stop being aggressive, and think about the children?
Finally, the Pirates were booed at the close of the game. Lustily. This is a fan base that is enduring what looks a lot like it will be the 18th-straight losing Pirate season, the game was Pittsburgh's 10th loss in a row, and the Pirates were starting 3 rookies Wednesday night; something really bad had to happen to push the folks in attendance over the edge. And it is happening; the Pirates haven't had a winning season since 1992, yet this is somehow on pace to be their worst year of the 18. This squad has a decent shot to match the 104 losses the 1985 Pirates had, also known as the team that got Chuck Tanner fired and replaced with Jim Leyland. Pittsburgh fans will undoubtedly be hoping in vain that this most recent disaster would lead to such rebirth.
For their part the White Sox did everything right against an awful team. Pirates starter Zach Duke looked on his game in the first three innings, but once he started to get in trouble the Sox jumped all over his mistakes, and strung hits together in bunches. 5 consecutive batters reached base in the 4th to produce 3 runs, and 3 straight hits in the 6th produced two runs. Against the Pirates' piddling offense, and behind the highly functioning John Danks, this essentially ended the game; making the events of the 9th inning ancillary, but no less amusing.
First, Jayson Nix hit a double (in itself, hilarious), then after a popout by Andruw Jones, Juan Pierre reached first after 2nd baseman Nick Walker bobbled a soft grounder hit to him. There's a good chance that Pierre is paid per stolen base, so he took off for 2nd at the first opportunity. Pittsburgh catcher Ryan Doumit threw a low bouncer to 2nd, pretty much assuring that Pierre would be safe, but credit goes to shortstop Bobby Crosby for letting the ball ricochet off his shin and into to shallow center to allow Jayson Nix to score. If it had ended there, maybe it's just a run of the mill 4-error game for the Pirates. Instead, Juan took off for 3rd after Alex Rios' walked, prompting another low throw from Ryan Doumit that Pedro Alvarez used to prove that he hadn't been called up to the majors for his fielding prowess, by dropping it and letting the ball careen past him. Seeking redemption for the whole ball-off-the-shin fiasco, Bobby Crosby raced to the ball that had gotten by Alvarez, and hurled it home in attempt to throw out the streaking Pierre, only to have it fly past Doumit as Pierre slid safely in for the 7th run of the night. Alex Rios pulled into 2nd base, sealing the 4th error of the inning, and the 6th of the game.
John Danks pitched 8 innings, struck out six, allowing 4 hits and 3 walks against the team dead last in runs scored in all of baseball. John struggled with his control for a stretch in the 5th inning that led to a run, and was probably left in the game a little bit beyond his period of effectiveness in the 8th, resulting in Jose Tabata's first career home run. The Sox were up 4 at the time, and Danks was well-equipped enough to finish the inning without incident, so good for Ozzie for saving the bullpen. Unless Johnny is the focal point of your fantasy team, that home run was so meaningless A-Rod could have hit it.
Thursday the Sox will pursue the final portion of the sweep much like how a farmer will shoot an elderly horse that's broken all of its legs so that it doesn't have to suffer anymore.
Goodbye, old fella.
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