Game 43 // Fifth Inning, Pittsburgh // Home of the Freese


BOTTOM OF THE FIFTH: PIRATES 5 (1) – 4 DIAMONDBACKS

 

Roses are red, Pirates are yellow, what the hell color are the Diamondbacks wearing?

They’ve got black lettering, charcoal gray fabric, and a black snakeskin pattern around the ankles that blends with black cleats as if they’ve been stomping through tar.

I can’t get over it, so odd are these uniforms, and I’m not sure which baseball joke is being repeated more these days: the Diamondbacks’ new color set, or the way John Jaso has managed to transform himself into an actual pirate.

This Arizona team looks like… a group of… what do they look like?

So with nine charcoaled, rust-red Diamondbacks out on the field, under the dusky blue sky of a Pittsburgh evening, the yellow bridges on the Allegheny River lit up bright from below, John Jaso comes up to the plate. The home-plate camera’s zoomed in on his dreadlocks, strung out and orangey, with the city skyline looming in the distance.

If anyone should continue the tradition Andrew McCutchen started, shouldn’t Jeff Locke (tonight’s pitcher) be the one to get the dreadlocks? Like the newest tongue-twister for childrens’ wordplay books, with a challenge to say it fives time fast: “I dread Jeff Locke’s dreadlocks.”

So the D-Backs are up 4-1, with Rubby “Tuesday” De La Rosa on the mound (pronounced “ruby”), and McCutchen comes up looking for a mid-game rally.

“De La Rosa has slithered out of some tight situations before,” says one of the Pirates’ TV guys, the type of clever line that should soon launch a thriving stand-up career, if only he wanted to go for it. Can this guy write the screenplay for Snakes on a Plane 2?

So De La Rosa winds up, his tail a-rattle and fangs bared, and whips a high fastball to McCutchen. A big whiff, and it’s an 0-1 count. The Arizona caps, upon closer inspection, look as if they’ve been coated with a light spread of tomato sauce, but I’m still assuming that’s part of the design.

Rubby readies for the next pitch, delivers another high fastball, and it’s driven hard into left-field, McCutchen all over it. Two men on, no outs, with Gregory Polanco striding up to the plate—the table set for a big inning.

This Pittsburgh team stands a handful of games back from the Cubs, having gained a few back this week, and have separated from the lukewarm Cardinals in a way they haven’t in many years. They’re ahead of where they stood this time last year, on pace again for greatness—with the goal more than ever to avoid yet another one-game Wild Card. They’re coming hard for the division.

Polanco rips a ground ball just foul, down the first-base line.

The camera pans around the ballpark, showing not a single D-Back fan but a big, teeming sea of black and yellow.

And now De La Rosa shoots a fastball toward the plate, down and away. Polanco reaches out for it, stroking a lofted line-drive into the gap in right center. Jaso dashes home to score, McCutchen hustles over to third, and it’s now 4-2—Pirates on the comeback.

Starling Marte then comes up, working a long full-count at-bat that ends with an RBI ground-out to Jake Lamb. 4-3.

And the TV coverage cuts to the close-up dugout camera feed, one of the bench coaches shouting “Here we go, David! Come on, baby!” as one David Freese walks up to the plate.

He draws a 2-2 count.

There’s a string of river cruise boats pacing along in the dark beyond the ballpark fences, with one passing by center-field in blue and white, lit up by the glow of the overhead lights.

The home-plate umpire has a odd spasm, shouts time out!! He steps off to the side, then signals to resume play. A fan near one of the crowd mics claps and shouts “Let’s go, David!” and on the next pitch they’re all on their feet.

“This one’s hit!!” says the Pirates’ play-by-play guy, “well to center, verrrry deeep, and there it goes!!”

The ball rockets off Freese’s bat, over the infield, the outfield, and landing finally in the bullpen—straight into the mitt of Neftali Feliz, with the rest of the Pirates’ relievers jumping up in celebration. It’s a highlight-reel quality catch, easy, but clear runner-up to the all-time winner in the category—the snag two weeks ago in the White Sox’ bullpen down in Texas.

Fireworks shoot up over the river, from behind center-field, and Freese rounds the bases as a bright ball of red, yellow and blue lights up the bridges, the boats, the whole stadium.

It’s 5-4, Pirates ahead, with a score that holds through the end of the game.

They’re on their way up, dashing past the Cardinals, coming for the Cubs. Freese, Jaso, Marte, McCutchen and the gang—speeding on a pirate ship for the NL Central.

 

 

Previously:

11th Inning: PIT vs. STL

9th Inning: OAK vs. TEX

7th Inning: SDP vs. CHC

8th Inning: CHC vs. CIN

7th Inning: TOR vs. CHW

7th Inning: BAL vs. BOS

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