PITTSBURGH, PA - SEPTEMBER 07: Andrew McCutchen #22 of the Pittsburgh Pirates celebrates his three-run home run with Brandon Wood #2 and Alex Presley #44 against the Houston Astros during the game on September 7, 2011 at PNC Park in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
Oh, how things change. After the fireworks in the first inning (homers by Carlos Lee and Matt Downs on the Astros' side, and a solo homer by Andrew McCutchen to make it 4-1), the game settled into a crafty-lefty matchup that I thought had the potential to become the most boring game I'd watched all year, the kind where your brain goes to boring, boring places like the following:
-P- Hey, isn't it weird that ROOT Sports is running a poll about who the Pirates' leader will be in 2012, and two of the four choices (Ryan Doumit and Derrek Lee) aren't even terribly likely to be Pirates in 2012?
-P- I wonder if there's some television producer somewhere who's trying to make herself not call Frank Coonelly right now and remind him that sports are entertainment, and Brian Burres is the opposite of entertainment.
-P- Oh weird, Jason Michaels continues to be in the big leagues for some reason.
-P- Burres is topping out at 87 MPH. That's ... really weak for a major leaguer. But it's, like, twice as hard as I can throw! How cool would it be to throw 87 MPH in one of those ballpark-concourse pitching machines?
-P- This second inning is longer than a murder trial.
Not very interesting, but hey - I watched it, and you probably didn't, judging from the crowd at the ballpark, so you need to experience some of the pain here. It's only fair.
It turned out to be worth it, though. The turning point came at the end of the fourth inning, when Jared Hughes came out to make his major-league debut. He ran out, his tongue dangling semi-obscenely, threw one pitch, got a groundout, and slammed his first into his glove. It was a great moment for a guy who's spent five years slogging through the minors. Good for him. In the dugout, McCutchen, in particular, was visibly pumped up.
Hughes came back out in the fifth and recorded a scoreless inning. He was throwing 92-93 MPH, with good movement.
In the bottom half of the inning, the Pirates finally got to J.A. Happ. Brandon Wood and Alex Presley got on, and then McCutchen socked a three-run homer to left to tie it. The Bucs got through the late innings thanks to some more strong work from Chris Leroux in particular, and then took the lead in the eighth after a series of singles, the last by Jason Jaramillo to bring home pinch-runner Chase D'Arnaud. Joel Hanrahan went 1-2-3 in the ninth. It turned out to be a pretty good game after all.