March 5, 2012; Sarasota, FL, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher Justin Wilson (61) throws over to first base to get out Baltimore Orioles runner Ryan Adams (not shown) in the fourth inning against the Baltimore Orioles at Ed Smith Stadium. The Pirates defeated the Orioles 10 - 3. Mandatory Credit: Joy R. Absalon-US PRESSWIRE
As those of you who follow me on Twitter know, I went out in the hundred-degree heat to watch Indianapolis beat the Columbus Clippers tonight, 10-5. (The Indianapolis team is named the Indians but is affiliated with the Pirates; the Columbus team is named after pirates' preferred vehicle but is affiliated with the Indians. Figure that one out.)
For the most part, Indianapolis was very impressive. Justin Wilson started and was terrible at first -- he struck out two batters during a first inning in which he threw almost entirely fastballs, but then he began the second inning with a walk, a homer and two more walks. He gave up a double and another walk before the inning was over and ended up allowing three runs. He'd also thrown 65 pitches at that point, only 30 of which were strikes.
At that point, I thought what we were seeing was The Bad Justin Wilson, the one who's shown up every few starts this year, in between all the brilliant ones. But Wilson recovered nicely and pitched three more scoreless innings. He went out for the fifth even though he'd thrown, I believe, 96 pitches at that point. I was shocked that Indy let him do that, but he was still throwing 94 MPH in the fifth and he struck out two batters that inning, looking visibly fired up as he came off the mound. He threw (again, I'm not positive this is absolutely right, but it's close) 108 pitches. He struck out six and walked four, and his fastball was between 91-95 MPH, mostly toward the higher end of that range.
After Wilson came Bryan Morris, Duke Welker and Evan Meek. All were throwing in the low- to mid-90s. Welker and Meek both struggled with their control, and overall Meek appeared to be only a bit closer to his prime-2010 velocity than he was when he was with the big club a couple months ago. Still (and obviously not every pitcher from each team pitched), the contrast in velocity with the Columbus pitchers, who pitched primarily in the upper 80s, was striking. I'm not sure about Meek, but I like Morris and Welker's chances of being good relievers in the bigs someday.
Jose Tabata played center field; Starling Marte played left. Tabata completely lollipopped a throw to second at one point. As I said on the podcast this week, I think the question of what it means to be a "lazy" ballplayer is a complicated one, and these guys probably generally deserve more benefit of the doubt than fans usually give them. But if you thought Tabata was lazy before, that play tonight would have reinforced your opinion.
The hitters mostly looked great, scoring 10 runs on 18 hits. They didn't homer, but there were a number of hard-hit balls, including one by Tony Sanchez that was so close to the yellow line on the wall in left center that manager Dean Treanor argued it. (Sanchez ended up with a double.) Chase D'Arnaud, Starling Marte (who went 2-for-5 in what I'm guessing will be one of his last few games before being promoted) and Sanchez all had two hits each. Jeff Clement, Brandon Boggs and Anderson Hernandez all had three apiece.
I sat in the front row, right behind Indianapolis' on-deck circle and adjacent to the Indianapolis bullpen, so I also saw some wackier stuff:
-P- Marte hit a line-drive single in the first, then came around to score two batters later. As he reentered the dugout, Meek said something to him. I'm only about 80 percent sure what I heard, so you can take this with a grain of salt, but I really hope I'm right about this, for all kinds of reasons. What I heard Meek say to Marte was, "I want to have sex with you!"
-P- A number of Indianapolis players chatted with the Columbus fans, who were mostly pretty nice. Sanchez is known to be a personality out there, but I'd never seen his act up close. Now that I have, I like him a lot better. The national anthem was sung by a big guy with an impressively full voice. He struggled to hit some of the notes at the beginning, but recovered nicely for the big "And the land of the freeeeeee" finale. After it was over, Sanchez turned around and, to no one in particular, gave a mildly-surprised "hmm" look that was a little like a face that Jim from The Office might make.
Later, Sanchez was in the on-deck circle, and a fan said, "What you got, 19?" Without a beat, Sanchez said, "Nothing, I'm sweaty. I smell terrible." A fan then asked where he was from. When he mentioned something about Miami, the fan used a swear word, and Sanchez immediately cut her off and said something like, "There are kids all over the place." Whether Sanchez should be having entire conversations while he's in the on-deck circle is a question for his coaches, but he seems like a genuinely cool person.
@BucsDugout i said whoaaa, easy with the language, there are kids everywhere...
-P- I didn't see the big-league game today, but there was apparently some issue with hitters calling -- and umpires granting -- late timeouts. That happened to Morris in the sixth, and he accidentally airmailed a fastball about 10 feet over his catcher's head. I can't remember the last time I'd seen that. Morris looked upset and shouted something in the direction of the plate. I'm not sure who he was talking to, but I couldn't blame him for being angry.
-P- The San Diego Chicken was there, for some reason, and it did some amusing routines with umpires and Indianapolis players. In one of them, the chicken hit Indy's first-base coach with a few water balloons. The chicken chased the coach toward the Indianapolis bullpen -- where Indy players pelted the chicken with about 100 water balloons of their own. It turned out that these professional baseball players were pretty terrific at throwing water balloons, hitting the chicken in the head despite throwing at a fair distance.