Say what you will about these 2014 Pirates, but they are not boring.
Tonight, the Bucs won their league-leading 11th one-run game of the season, while playing over half of the game with an outfield consisting of Josh Harrison, Jose Tabata and Gaby Sanchez/Jordy Mercer. In a twist reminiscent of the 2013 Pirates, not one catchable ball was hit to the outfield with this make-shift defensive alignment in place, as the Pirates' pitchers got the last 15 outs of the game via eight ground outs, six strikeouts, and an infield line drive.
To make matters more interesting, the Pirates had to rely on their much-maligned bullpen to navigate them through the last 4 1/3 innings, after Edinson Volquez's had his third disappointing outing in a row.
Finally, a fireworks night crowd at PNC Park didn't make things any easier for the Bucs, as they started The Wave rolling around the park at the same time that the Pirates' defenders were trying to extract themselves from a tight situation in the seventh. Then in the bottom of the seventh, as the Bucs were trying to add an insurance run with Ike Davis batting and Gaby Sanchez on base, a shirtless fan leapt out of the seats, ran across center field, and scaled the outfield wall before being apprehended. Ike Davis promptly struck out.
But the Pirates survived it all. And, in doing so, won another game and another series in this key homestand.
Hurdle summed up the night, "What a fun game to be a part of."
-P- Andrew McCutchen was not in tonight's lineup because of "left foot soreness." Starling Marte was pulled in the fourth inning due to "tightness in the back." Gaby Sanchez pinch hit for Marte, and then played right field until the seventh, when Jordy Mercer took over. It was the first Major League appearance for both players in the outfield.
Gaby Sanchez said he may have played some outfield in Little League, but he can't remember. He knows he hasn't played it in his professional career.
"There's always going to be some nerves, just because I've never done it before," Sanchez said. "I was just taking easy, staying relaxed and trying to treat it just like it was BP (batting practice). That's the only thing I was thinking 'just treat it like your shagging.'"
In addition to playing the outfield, Sanchez also stole the 12th base of his six-year Major League career.
"I think playing outfield, I felt fast," Sanchez said whiling cracking a smile. "My attributes went up, like, plus-two because I was playing outfield and not first." (A reference to the rating system used in the video game MLB The Show, which some members of the team were playing before the game.)
Jordy Mercer said that he has never played the outfield at any level, not even little league.
"I had to do whatever it takes to help the team win," Mercer said. I didn't question it one bit. I got an outfielder's glove and got ready. End of story."
Brent Morel did not participate in tonight's ballgame.
-P- Ike Davis is very quietly in the middle of an on-base hot streak. Tonight he went 2-for-3, walking once and hitting a double. He is now batting .643/.667/.857 in his last four games, and .265/.378/.410 for the season.
-P- Edinson Volquez had another rough outing, lasting only 4 2/3rds innings, allowing four hits, three runs and four walks. In his last three starts Volquez has pitched 15.1 innings and allowed 18 hits, 15 earned runs and eight walks, with a 8.94 ERA.
-P- Jose Tabata and Josh Harrison continued to contribute to the offense, going 3-for-9, scoring a run, and adding two RBIs.