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The Rich Hill Game: How weird baseball keeps me going

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Los Angeles Dodgers v Pittsburgh Pirates
Curtis Granderson, not in my vision from Section 127.
Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

What a perfectly imperfect game.

I didn’t quite know what to do with myself rooting for Trevor Williams as he soldiered through the eighth inning, knowing that would hurt the chances of a perfect game or no-hitter by Rich Hill, also knowing that would mean an embarrassing (at least temporarily) Pirates loss.

So I just cheered. For baseball.

I’m a Pirates fan because I’m a baseball fan in general. I don’t think the former would have remained true through a 20-year drought had the latter not been so. And I think wins like Wednesday night’s help keep us going as Pirates fans. That and the vagaries naturally built into a baseball season.

I was pulling for a perfect game. I think this was helped by three things:

  1. The Pirates aren’t (really) in contention.
  2. I haven’t seen a no-hitter or perfect game in person.
  3. The Pirates have already been no-hit in my lifetime.

I fully understand those blinded by loyalty, who couldn’t root for a Pirates loss in any way. I used to be that way until Homer Bailey no-hit the Pirates in 2012, but, strangely, the world kept turning. Heck, if I weren’t at PNC Park on Wednesday, I might not have been so open-minded, either.

But I wanted to see something special happen, and I was disappointed when Logan Forsythe muffed Jordy Mercer’s grounder in the ninth.

It set in during the top of the 10th that, if the Dodgers didn’t score, Hill would have to go two more innings to still have a shot at a no-hitter on his own, an unlikely proposition particularly with Dave Roberts’ rightful aversion to risk.

Then Josh Harrison hit a fly ball to left ...

— — —

Sitting down the third-base line, the very edge of the left-field corner is the only part of the field where my vision was blocked.

I actually sort of enjoy this. It’s fun to be in suspense for an extra second, waiting for the crowd’s reaction to tell you what happened. It reminds of sitting in the seats perched above the outfield in Three Rivers Stadium, where you (or at least, I, as a youngster) couldn’t quite track a ball all the way over the wall.

My dad would stand up, and I’d find out from his reaction, but I wasn’t quite tall enough for that to make a difference. There aren’t many things at a modern park that remind me of Three Rivers, but, man, every time this happens, I’m seven years old again. It’s the best.

— — —

The crowd didn’t react, at least not right away.

For a short time, nobody knew whether Curtis Granderson came up with the ball, as TV and radio replays would later remind me.

Then the silence broke. Fans cheered, but not hysterically, not even to the extent of much less-meaningful home runs. The ballpark lights flickered, a new-ish feature I’m not quite used to, and everything felt just so, so weird. It was the weirdest thing I’d ever seen. In baseball, sure, but maybe to some extent beyond that.

I was just happy to be there, like I was happy to be in Three Rivers Stadium watching bad 1990s baseball, or in the very same PNC Park, watching bad 2000s baseball.

It wasn’t so much the win, it was the craziness, and the people with which to share it. Games like Wednesday night’s help sustain me as a baseball fan, and I hope you were able to experience that kind of joy, too.