Rabu, 08 Juni 2011

Pirates becoming late-night rock stars

Wednesday, June 08, 2011
There was no indication that Pirates manager Clint Hurdle had issued any Miranda warnings before a series opener against the Arizona Diamondbacks, but Hurdle still very likely set a National League record by mentioning Meatloaf and Bugs Bunny in the same pregame news gabber.

Go ahead, find that on baseballreference.com.
Hurdle said the recently completed series against the first-place Phillies called to mind "the immortal words of Meatloaf, 1977, at least immortal in my mind," meaning two out of three ain't bad, then described Daniel Hudson, Arizona's starter Tuesday night, as having "almost a Bugs Bunny changeup," presumably meaning that the pitch is prone to disappear down a rabbit hole from a perfectly obvious place.

Now, of course, we shouldn't be presumptuous on any of this, and maybe John Russell pulled precisely the same rhetorical rock star/Looney Tunes double play at some point in the past two summers.

While we were sleeping.

Turns out a Miranda warning would have been more useful anyway, as Tuesday was a game in which Arizona's .232-hitting first baseman Juan Miranda would go 4 for 4, spark a three-run rally by leading off the fifth inning with his sixth homer, all of it helping to keep PNC Park an uncomfortable place for Pirates ace Kevin Correia. Correia's eight wins still lead the league even if North Shore audiences have seen but one.

No matter, the Pirates buried all of that trivia with a rollicking five-run eighth in which Hurdle's makeshift lineup unleashed a triple-double on Arizona's bullpen.

The fact that they were down, 5-3, and had exactly three hits through seven innings against Bugs Hudson didn't seem to discourage pinch-hitter Garrett Jones nor leadoff man Jose Tabata nor Lyle Overbay, all of whom doubled to vault the Pirates to an 8-5 lead and a seventh win in its past 11 games.

But the biggest hit of the inning was perhaps its least likely, coming off the bat of substitute second baseman Josh Harrison, who was giving Neil Walker a night off and pretty much minding his own business until he went up there to bunt with Tabata, representing the tying run, on second and nobody out in the eighth.

"Just shows how things can change in a hurry," said Harrison, the 62 on his back continuing to suggest he's here to do the long snapping. "I knew I had to battle. I should have got [the bunt] down."

Sure he should have, and when he fell behind Arizona reliever David Hernandez 0-2, Hurdle probably felt a few synapses fire toward giving him a third shot at it, so valuable was Tabata's run, so callow was Harrison as a big league hitter.

"I have not given many position players the bunt sign with two strikes," Hurdle said late Tuesday night. "I may have done it, but I can't remember.
The thing is, a swinging bat can still be a dangerous bat. Give Josh credit. He was able to close the book on the bunt thing and put a good swing on the next pitch."

So there's your credit due, as Harrison swatted an 0-2 curveball Hernandez was doubtless trying to waste back through the middle for a 5-5 tie in a game that rarely flashed the promise of five Pirates hits let alone a five-run, eleventh-hour onslaught.

Xavier Paul, hitting third for the first time, put down the bunt Harrison couldn't, but Diamondbacks catcher Miguel Montero wasn't content to accept the out Hurdle was offering. He threw incorrectly to second, leaving Harrison safe there and Paul safe at first. After Hernandez walked McCutchen, hitting fourth for the first time, on four pitches, Overbay calmly rode a fifth consecutive fastball from frustrated Hernandez to the extreme backyard in right-center field to chase everyone home, including most of the 12,378 paid.

Where are those Phillies fans when you need them?

Walker's rest will end tonight, meaning Hurdle's lineup will look a lot more conventional for the quasi-anticipated Paul Maholm-Zach Duke matchup.
There's no foreseeing how that might go, but at least one thing has become clear about Hurdle's team -- it will go deep in games looking for a way to win, rather than a way to the parking lot.

"I can feel the energy on this team," Harrison said. "We are gonna battle the whole game."

A year ago at this point the Pirates were 13 games under .500. Today they are 29-30. Meatloaf never sang a chorus like it, and sure, there ain't no way you're ever gonna love it, but in this summer, in this city, 29 out of 59 ain't bad.

Gene Collier: gcollier@post-gazette.com. More articles by this author

Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/11159/1152124-150-0.stm#ixzz1OgVaVXDg

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