Thursday, July 1, 2010

7-1-10 vs the Phillies: The Return of Daniel McCutchen

Got my wish. There's something greatly offensive about the fans of a visiting team outnumbering the fans of the home team to the extent that they can have a successful "Lets go ___" cheer, but this win threw all that nonsense right back in their faces.
Tomorrow afternoon I will post a 40+ photo recap of the game, but for right now I'd like to focus on what I believe is the most interesting story from tonight's win: the triumphant return of Daniel McCutchen.
Last seen in PNC Park when he started the historic 20-0 loss to the Brewers several months ago, today McCutchen recorded a win and restored faith in the idea that there can be much more to a pitcher than his last start.
I was lucky enough to see Daniel McCutchen pitch a brilliant game at Pirates City in Bradenton back in March. At that point, the position of fifth starting pitcher was Kevin Hart's to lose. However, multiple strong outings on McCutchen's part (combined with Hart's struggles) got him the job. That's the kind of thing I had hoped to see more of this year: players proving that they deserve a starting position in the majors. Laroche hasn't done it, Cedeno isn't doing it, Church never did it, Milledge is just now starting to do it, and unfortunately the list goes on. McCutchen did it way back in spring training, however. But then the 20-0 loss happened.
After that awful game, video of a clubhouse interview given by McCutchen surfaced online. I'll say this: people disposed to empathy can go through a lot of emotional turmoil in following this sport. If you're ever sick of being in a good mood and want to get real depressed real quick, seek out that video.
At the end of the interview, while fighting back tears, McCutchen related that he had been reading the Book of Job recently. He said that it was helping him to accept the importance of his own trials, even if he didn't fully understand why they had come to pass. "You haven't seen the last of me", he had said. Unfortunately, his voice sounded far more shell-shocked than confident.
And then today he throws 78 pitches, earns 4 strikeouts, gives up zero walks, and allows only one earned run. Basically, he looked like a different pitcher: refreshingly-aggressive and comfortable on the mound. Nothing quite like seeing concrete undeniable proof of hope in the world, is there?
I saw McCutchen give a pitching workshop during Pirates Fan Fest at the Convention Center in which he spoke at length to about fifty young children and their fathers with genuine enthusiasm. He came across as very down-to-earth, making it seem like any of the kids in attendance could reach the Bigs if they had discipline and proper training. Hell, he made me feel like I could make it to the Bigs, and I'm 26 and have never played a game of baseball in my life. He seemed like a genuinely nice guy, and I'm happy to see him have such a strong start. Also, if I never see another career-killing appearance like Van Benschoten's last start with the Pirates, that will be just fine with me.
At the start of every inning, he adopted this pose in what I can only assume was prayer. And then he turned around and promptly ate through the Phillies batting order.

No comments:

Post a Comment