I wasn't sure I'd go to PNC Park Monday night.
Not really because it's as dark a time Pirates fans have had since, well, the dark ages, but for various reasons I wasn't really feeling it. I doubt I was the only one.
Walking to the park got the juices flowing, though. Once inside I stopped and commiserated with a friend of mine, a beer vendor strangely happy to stop the hustle for a minute to talk baseball every time we cross paths. The negativity that's flowed for weeks made it comforting to sit down and just watch baseball defiantly.
The randomness of baseball rewarded the faithful with a perfectly pleasant, silly game: Erik Kratz homered to help Jeff Locke and the Pirates to a 1-0 victory in a pitchers' duel with Madison Bumgarner and the San Francisco Giants. The Pirates had lost five in a row; the Giants had won eight in a row. Bumgarner hadn't taken a loss in 10 straight starts.
Locke had one of his good outings -- a walk-free, 12-groundout/two-flyout, five-hit, three-strikeout performance in 6 2-3 innings, frequently working with a runner on but never with more than one.
This was much needed, of course, as the mighty Bumgarner opposed him by putting up zeroes until the fifth. With two outs Kratz, hitless in his second stint with the Bucs, popped a fly ball towards the left-field corner. It went out of view from my third-base vantage point. The crowd went silent, stayed silent, then eventually got around to cheering awkwardly -- left fielder Angel Pagan had jumped at the wall, gotten the ball in his glove, but lost it. He returned to the ground and spiked his glove to the warning track, only then letting the rest of the world know an @cantpredictball moment had occurred. (See it here.)
Jarrett Parker doubled with two outs in the seventh, but the bullpen went seven up/seven down (kind of) in another pleasant little Opposite Day twist. Neftali Feliz relieved Locke to get Bumgarner to ground out, then Tony Watson pitched a quick eighth. Brandon Belt singled off Mark Melancon to start the ninth, and Buster Posey hit a scary liner tailing down the right-field line. Gregory Polanco not only tracked it down, though, but recovered before crashing into the short wall and threw to first to double-up Belt, who had been running. Brandon Crawford flew out to center, and, simply enough, the Pirates had a win.
Bumgarner was Bumgarner, going all eight innings, striking out eight, walking two and allowing five hits. Jordy Mercer, in the leadoff spot, had two of those hits.