PITTSBURGH - JUNE 08: Andrew McCutchen #22 of the Pittsburgh Pirates hits a double in the tenth inning against the Arizona Diamondbacks during the game on June 8, 2011 at PNC Park in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
Despite the game being a costly one - with Chris Snyder going down, and the Pirates using all their relievers except Evan Meek - it certainly made good TV. Not only was there the walk-off homer, but the Bucs also had to score in the 10th to tie it (on an RBI single by Neil Walker) after the Diamondbacks scored in the top of the inning. Then there was the top of the 11th, in which Daniel McCutchen allowed a double and a single to start the inning, but struck out Ryan Roberts and induced a double play by Kelly Johnson to get out of it without allowing a run. McCutchen also put two men on in the 12th, but he got Sean Burroughs to ground out to end it.
Then there was the eighth inning. The Pirates were leading 1-0 after seven, thanks to six shutout innings by Paul Maholm, but Jose Veras came in and really struggled. At one point, he threw a pitch that hit Justin Upton square in the back; it looked like it just completely got away from him. He allowed an RBI single by Stephen Drew that tied the game, and Clint Hurdle brought in Tony Watson to make his MLB debut with two men on in a tie game. Well, Watson - throwing 93 MPH fastballs and 86 MPH changeups - struck out both Chris Young and Juan Miranda to end it. The crowd went nuts. ROOT said Watson's father drove in from Iowa to see the game. His heart must have been bursting out of his chest.
UPDATE 12:15 AM: There's some talk in the comments about Andrew McCutchen being a superstar now. That's probably not taking things too far - even before tonight's game, in which he went 3-for-5 with a double and a homer, he was seventh among major-league position players in WAR. That's thanks in part to his defensive numbers being a lot better than last year, and who knows what to make of that at this point in the season, but I see a defender who makes more tough-looking, spectacular plays than he used to. Also, he's hitting for more power this year, with 10 home runs and 13 doubles already. His OPS+ before tonight's game was 135, up from 122 last year. A couple bad weeks could change all that, but right now, it looks like he's blossoming, and if this season ends up being a turning point for him, we're going to look back very fondly on games like this one as moments where we watched a good player turn into a great one right in front of us.
We saw a Pirates team start a season 30-30 in 2005, so it's certainly possible I'm letting myself be fooled again here. The Bucs have, after all, gotten some somewhat fluky seasons from their starting pitchers so far. But it's hard not to dream that this game, in particular, marks a turning point for the Pirates, who are finally playing competitive baseball, just as their center fielder begins to emerge as one of the sport's better players.