One of the benefits/drawbacks of being a far-flung fan - I live in San Diego, for those of you who don't know - is that I never actually have to speak with anyone about Pirates baseball. The people who wind up at this site are either Pirates fans themselves, or they're fairly hardcore baseball fans who can probably get a reasonable sense of what being a Pirate fan is like.
When the Pirates actually come to town, I feel like the absurdity of my situation in on display for all to see. Which is to say, I'm a relatively smart young person with a career and a life, and yet I'm hopelessly dedicated to a terrible baseball team, the owners of which have no interest in returning that dedication. Ordinarily, I never actually talk to anyone about this, and it never comes up. I talk about other things.
So I went to the game tonight. As much as there may or may not be things about the Pirates' recent play that are promising, tonight was practically Exhibit A in how far the Bucs have to go.
Because of a congested parking lot at our trolley stop, we missed most of the first inning. My girlfriend has never watched the Pirates with me - I always watch the games on mlb.tv at school. And in the very first inning she's there, she's treated to a bungled double-play opportunity by the Pirates' infielders and a throwing error by Tom Gorzelanny, prompting her to say, in something like awe, "Wow, these guys really are terrible."
We were way in the upper deck, and I'm happy to report there were a handful of Pirate fans up there. One, in particular, was very serious - he had driven out to California from North Carolina, and had caught at least one game in Los Angeles the series before. He was keeping score.
On offense, Chris Young was having no problems with the Pirates, inducing lots of strikeouts and weak fly balls. I'd missed the first inning, but I didn't take long to notice that after a few innings, Young had faced the minimum number of batters. After five, I loudly asked the Pirate fan keeping score if Young had a perfect game, hoping to bait the Padres fans around us into accusing me of jinxing him. The Buc fan said that yeah, he did have a perfect game. He had only thrown 45 pitches up to that point. I was embarrassed for my team - not only were they not getting on base, they weren't even making the starter do any actual work.
Other aspects of the Pirates' game weren't any better. With the Padres hitting, the Pirates continued to be a mess of bad pitching and defense that ranged from terrible to indifferent. The throwing mistakes and busted plays - and there were more after that inning my girlfriend commented on - were one thing, but then there was also the triple by Mike Piazza. If you didn't see the game, you may be wondering, "How did the Pirates manage to give up a triple to Mike Piazza?"
Well, here's how - Piazza hit a ball hard and deep to center field. Chris Duffy had to back up a lot to get there, and he couldn't quite catch up to it. After Duffy failed to catch the ball, it hit an indentation in the wall that causes balls to roll into right field, where Xavier Nady had been standing absolutely still, not backing Duffy up at all. He didn't run to get the ball until after it made the carom, by which point it was clear Piazza was going to reach third easily. I could tell from the upper deck that the ball was going to hit the indentation; I have no idea why Nady didn't make any effort to get to it.
Anyway, Young inexplicably walked Rajai Davis in the sixth to break up the perfect game, but by then Padres fans were starting to get excited about the no-hitter Young still had going. I declared that I was actively rooting for the no-hitter at that point because hey, who doesn't want to see a no-hitter, and anyway it would be beautiful if another Littlefield mistake (Dave lost Young for nothing, after all) was placed in the Pittsburgh sports spotlight. I also said that because these were the Pirates, they would find a way to thwart my dreams of seeing a no-hitter while still finding a way to lose.
In spite of this, I was still held out hope that a no-no might happen, especially because Young breezed through the eighth, striking out Jason Bay and Ronny Paulino on the way.
In the ninth, though, Young's control started to slip, and he finally started to pile up pitches. After getting Ryan Doumit to line out, he walked Jose Bautista. Then Joe Randa walked to the plate and - I didn't look this up, but I don't see how I could possibly be wrong about what I'm about to say - hit the longest home run Joe Randa has ever hit, well over 400 feet.
@#$(*ing Joe Randa. Is there anything more annoying than my night being ruined by Joe @#$(*ing Randa? The Pirates couldn't even make it up to me by, you know, winning - after Young struck out Chris Duffy and walked Jack Wilson, the Padres brought in Cla Meredith, who made Freddy Sanchez look silly on a strikeout to end the game.
Girl in front of me: You suck, Pirates!
Me: Don't rub it in.
UPDATE: Pat nails it.