TOP OF THE TWELFTH: PIRATES 10 8 – 8 10 D-BACKS
We start tonight with Tyler Clippard on the mound for Arizona, wearing about the 50th jersey outfit this team’s rolled out this season, his ankles giving off the bloodied-sock look made… fashionable? by Curt Schilling in 2004. This must have deeper meaning: maybe that…the Diamondbacks will… stomp gorily over their competition? Stab themselves in their own Achilles’ heel? Spill grape juice on their ankles?
— Chris (@cmgtmmk) April 26, 2016
Clippard himself saves the look a little bit, with the sporty glasses and goatee-and-mullet flow only the edgiest of baseball hurlers can get away with, dabbing the baseball with illegal amounts of dirt-bag swagger before each pitch.
He’s staring down Francisco Cervelli at the moment, who’s rocking a pair of black and yellow socks stretched out to become almost white at the seams.
And I’m thinking… we need a reality show about some of these guys… or a movie? The Devil Wears Prada Arizona Diamondbacks Jerseys.
Cervelli digs in, readying for the next pitch, and he comes up with a big line-drive hit to center. No outs yet, the game tied 8-8, and the scoreboard like two infinity symbols that just won’t let this one end.
Jordy Mercer comes up now, who just weeks ago knocked off the Cardinals with a walk-off hit in the frigid early days of April. He looks to third for the signs, then drops down a quick bunt toward Clippard, near perfect placement, as Clippard throws to first for the out, Cervelli safe at second.
Now, things get interesting.
Andrew McCutchen up, 2013 National League MVP, with an ease about him that says there’s no way Arizona can get out of this inning unscathed.
Conference time on the mound, as the infield forms a communal shell around Clippard, looking to any new baseball fans like some sort of conference of bad-breath sufferers, each player politely placing their hands over their mouths, chattering—apparently—about the best possible solutions for their unsolvable odor.
For the Pirates, who along with McCutchen have been slumping, they’re looking to jump back up in the standings with the break-neck pace of the Cubs.
They go as he goes.
Between pitches, Clippard spins around and whips the ball to second—flying past Segura’s glove and into the outfield. Cervelli darts away from the scene, toward third, as the shortstop comes alive and snags the overthrow, brilliantly gunning it to third. Cervelli out! A huge play, as it’s back to square one for the Pirates, two outs now in a still-tied game.
Tyler Clippard is all smiles, pointing at the shortstop to give credit, licking his lips as if awaiting some tasty post-game feast. Then he walks McCutchen, now pacing around the mound, shaking his head, digging his cleat into the dirt, the inning no longer finger-lickin’ good.
David Freese comes up, and the first pitch meets the middle of the bat and shoots outward on a straight line out to the wall in right-center. There’s a clean pickup, then a relay throw, then an easy slide into home as McCutchen comes in safe by two steps. Lead: Pittsburgh. Clippard now very clearly barks out a vehement four-letter word with the camera quickly panning away—the very first run he’s given up this season.
— Pittsburgh Pirates (@Pirates) April 25, 2016
Starling Marte up now, swishing his bat around like Gary Sheffield, and he knocks the first pitch easily into left-field, bumping the score to 10-8, and suddenly a two-run inning has crept up on Arizona.
Taco Bell has their “Live Más” ad going strong behind home plate, with Clippard seeing, praying for nothing but “No Más!”
But he gets his way out of it before the next batter, as Tomás whips the ball in from left-field and Marte is out at second. Do-or-die bottom of the inning coming up for the D-Backs.
BOTTOM OF THE TWELFTH: PIRATES 10 – 8 10 D-BACKS
Neftali Feliz now on the mound for the Pirates, newly acquired from the Texas Rangers, with bright yellow shoes like a bumblebee halloween costume.
Jake Lamb up, and he walks.
Now it’s Nick Ahmed, who’s (almost) got the same name as the most legendary of Backyard Baseball players: the head-phoned, the curly haired, the baseball-demolishing Achmed Khan.
We’ll just see whether Ahmed can’t channel Achmed here, finding his inner 2D cartoon video-game child, tapping into some off-the-charts power rating that’ll swing this game back in Arizona’s favor.
He fouls off a pitch. Then another. And another. A ten-pitch at-bat now for Ahmed and he looks dead-set on delivering home a win here. A minute later, he’s ejected by the home-plate umpire, arguing the call on a curveball that was way, way inside—and would’ve (should’ve) been ball four.
— FOX Sports Arizona (@FOXSPORTSAZ) April 25, 2016
He gets himself right up in the umpire’s grill, saying “That was a ball. That was a ball!! Come on man, that was no strike!!” as his manager runs out for backup and the ump sends him packing.
I look over at the on-deck circle now, and—huh?? Zack Greinke is standing there, taking practice cuts, being sent in as a pinch-hitter?? I check his stats…Batting average: 0.429—Whoa.
So here we are, it all comes down to Greinke…. and he smacks a hard-hit ground ball to Freese, and he can’t come up with it!—the ball rolling around in and out of his glove.
So Greinke is safe, and who comes on to pinch run but Shelby Miller…. Wow. Where’s Dustin Hoffman as Rain Man when you need him, to tell us whether this has ever happened? We get tomorrow’s starting pitcher with the pinch-hit, and then the day-after-tomorrow’s starting pitcher with a pinch-run. Unreal.
“Everybody’s pitching in today,” says one of the TV guys, guffawing at his own pun, as David Peralta comes up.
A big whiff on a first-pitch fastball, which Feliz seems fixated on, but they’re catching up to it. Next pitch: yet another fastball, and it’s crushed by Peralta to center. Home run? For the win? Off the wall, just barely, 410 feet from home and just short enough to stay in the park.
Lamb scores, Miller holds at third. 10-9 now. Peralta “drives the bus” on second, looking over at the home dugout.
— Steve Gilbert (@SteveGilbertMLB) April 26, 2016
Jean Segura up now, 0-6 today, and due for a big hit. He can win it here. The pitch from Feliz comes low and outside, very much unhittable, and Segura reaches out for it anyway. The ball squirts into left between third and short for a sneaky single, Miller scores, and… “We’re all tied!!” I hear from the Arizona TV crew, “Holy Toledo!!”
Goldschmidt walks up to the plate now, the players in the dugout all hand-drumming on the padded railing like part of a Blue Man Group routine.
Walk-off hit on the way? Feliz walks him, very nearly throwing one of the lobs over the catcher’s head—no way a team’s ever won on that, right?? Someone call up Rain Man again for access to that font of obscure baseball factology.
As the camera pans over to the crowd, I see two older ladies in the crowd suddenly whip out a pair of rubber chickens, and….I don’t get it. Checks Wikipedia… Got it. Sort of. See: Rubber Chicken Man.
Bases are loaded now for Yasmany Tomas. He strikes out on four pitches.
So the inning ends, we go from 8-8 to 10-10, the no-winners-allowed symmetry of the scoreboard still intact, though only for another half inning, when the Pirates storm back for a 12-10 win.
It’s still early, but these teams look in it for the long-haul. Two weeks ago I wouldn’t have taken that bet. But they’ve broken the early-April juju. A rematch to come in the NL Wild Card game?