SM goes to PNC
Finally, the stars aligned and I headed out to PNC Park on Tuesday evening to watch what would be the first of three straight home-losses to the Houston Astros, and their 5th consecutive loss in their current string. I leave home ticketless and with only a general plan to buy a ticket on the third base side of home plate, as close the field as I can get as to provide me a view of one of the most underrated skylines in the world.
On the way to the park from one of those parking lots that's a bit closer to Heinz Field than PNC, I am approached by one of my favorite kinds of people: a Parking Lot Ticket Salesman (hereafter PLTS). I can't tell if he qualifies as a scalper because he's selling for less than face value, but neither can I tell if the ticket is genuine. I understand the art of counterfeiting has become quite impressive. Section 132 or so for $20. I told him I'd see what some of his other cohorts had available. I moved on, and, before I took more than 20 steps, PLTS#1 has signalled PLTS#2 who offers me tickets above the Pirates dugout, sporting a photographic image of current Detroit Tiger Sean Casey, for a mere $25. My innate distrust of PLTSes leads me to tell him that I'll be right back after I visit the ATM.
So, as I head off in the general direction of the park, there's a group of young, early 20-somethings tossing a football around. They flag me down and ask if I need a ticket. I ask them where their tickets were and what the deal was. They show me a ticket (this one looked a bit more genuine) with Section 112, row AA, on the ticket. They say a guy one of them worked with gave him 20 of these tickets, and they can't even give them away. So, they were going to give me one free of charge if I wanted one. I figured there was no real risk in taking the ticket, so I thanked them for it, and finished the journey to the home plate entrance. There was a moment's apprehension when the nice lady at the gate scanned my ticket, but there was the all-clear beep and I was in.
Heh. Now that I'd saved some money on admission, I splurged on a $1.00 scorecard, which I'd actually never tried to fill out before after almost 30 years of life. It didn't turn out to be terribly difficult, but I'm sure I made some mistakes. Am I supposed to put the Pirate pitchers at the bottom of the Astros hitters, or keep all the Astros on the same page? What happens if one team bats around? What if there are a whole bunch of double-switches and pinch-hitters in the middle of the lineup? Where do those guys go? How much space to I leave? I didn't know. I still don't. The instructions didn't answer these questions.
You can visit several pirate weblogs or read the boxscore for how the game actually went, blow by blow. I'm just touching on a couple of my personal observations.
Prior to this visit to the ballpark, the Pirates won all three games of theirs that I attended in '05 (defeating Florida in May, Milwaukee in July at Miller Park, and St. Louis in August). From the outset of this game, though, I had a feeling that maybe the Pirates weren't going to get it done. Maybe because I was sitting on the first base side of the the park instead of the third base side. Snell was off-again, on-again throughout the game, once again digging himself a first-inning hole, but the crowd of 17K+ exploded when Bay hit a solo shot (does he hit any other kind?) and Bautista drilled a two-run homer off Petitte in the 2nd inning to tie it up. This prompted me to tell the elated fan next to me (one of the folks from the parking lot crew overburdened with tix), "Let's start over."
Well, we lost that mini-game 4-1.
Most impressive Pirate performance: Freddy Sanchez. He went 4-5 that night, ending the night up by 11 points in the batting race. I actually left the ballpark thinking that he very well may have locked up the batting race with that performance. However, Florida's pesky Miguel Cabrera sits only 4 points back of Freddy.
Most disappointing Pirate performance: Xavier Nady. The X-man not only went 0-3, but threw a very possible double-play ball into left field (which might have saved all three runs from scoring that inning had they turned the twin killing, but at the very least kept Mike Lamb from scoring in the frame if they'd have only got the force at 2nd). Then, in the 6th, he dropped a decent pick-off throw from Damaso Marte which allowed Willy Tavaras to take 2nd base. Of course, there was no guarantee that if Nady had gloved that throw that he wouldn't have thrown that one into left field, too, or that he'd have beaten the evil-looking speed demon with the throw to 2nd (seriously, have you seen the villainous glare he sports while standing at the plate?).
My favorite non-scoring moment: 6th inning, Ronny Paulino, almost certainly the slowest baserunner on the team, leads off with a bunt single to third. As the play is unfolding, and as I see that it's actually going to work, all I can shout is, "No way! No way!"
They also gave away a boat to a guy who looks like the type who would be running home to put it on eBay. Of course, I'd probably do that, too, if my dad didn't want to take it on fishing trips.
Three games to go now.
Go get 'em, Freddy!