The Pittsburgh Pirates' woes largely continue, and so we once again turn to our favorite alternate baseball universe in which Pittsburgh Pirates AA affiliate The Altoona Curve is battling New York Yankees affiliate the Trenton Thunder in the Eastern League Championship Series.
Just how alternate is this reality, you ask? Get this-The Thunder are actually the underdog in this matchup. In AA-land, the Altoona Curve swings the big stick.
If I were to compare the Curve to a major league team, I would say they are most like the San Diego Padres without the 10-game losing streak: good averages, little power, and lights-out pitching. Within their league, they have the second highest team batting average at .268, but they rank last in home runs, with a season total of 80. Their pitching staff has a .355 ERA, second lowest in their league behind the Harrisburg Senators' .351. Their WHIP is a league-lowest 1.23.
Alternate reality, indeed.
In this game, we got to see Jeff Locke, one of the starting pitchers largely responsible for this season's success. He went 7 innings, giving up only two runs on 6 hits and 2 walks. He got 8 strikeouts, and although he ran into rough spots in which he fell behind in the count and gave up hits, he managed to get out of these situations while incurring minimal damage.
Dellin Betances, The Trenton Thunder's opposing pitcher, was almost very good. He went 5. 1 innings, got 7 strikeouts and gave up only 4 hits. In the first inning, he gave up a solo home run to Josh Harrison that foreshadowed the RBIs to come.
In the 4th inning, Betances gave up two lead-off walks to Miles Durham and Anthony Norman. Chase D'Arnaud went for a sacrifice bunt and managed to reach first when Betances threw a ball into the dirt at first baseman Marcos Vechionacci's feet. Miles Durham took this opportunity to cross home plate, and for once I found myself taking delight in another team's pitching misfortunes.
A wild pitch allowed Norman to score, and then Jordy Mercer hit a 2-RBI home run to give the Curve a comfortable 5-1 lead.
Curve relief pitcher Derek Hankins made things a little too interesting when he gave up two back-to-back home runs to make it a 5-4 ball game, but Crazy Eyes Mercer hit another home run at the bottom of the eighth and Daniel Moskos allowed no RBIs and only one hit in the top of the ninth to win the game 6-4.
The series is now tied at 1-1. Tonight's game in New Jersey was rained out and will be played tomorrow evening.
Baseball God, if you are listening (reading?), hear my prayer: I have watched a lot of bad baseball this summer, and its comedic aspects wore off long ago. Let the Altoona Curve win their first Eastern League Championship so that there may be a light at the end of the tunnel for myself and for others like me who anticipate a day when Pirates baseball isn't quite so emotionally taxing. Everyone knows the Yankees (Thunder) are good; let Goliath take the fall this year. Look down upon pitchers Rudy Owens, Jeff Locke, Bryan Morris, Daniel Moskos, Justin Wilson, and Tony Watson and grant them godspeed in their journey to the majors. Amen.
And P.S.: Hector Gimenez kicks too much ass to not give him a shot at the majors.
And now, on with the pictures....
When Locke struggles, he also exhibits undeniable crazy eyes. As seen here.
Safe at second, to D'Arnaud's dismay.
And now back to Locke's crazy eyes.
Jeff Locke's magic arm.
Andrew Lambo leading off first.
Steamer mugging for my camera.
Jordy Mercer narrowly avoids getting beaned here, but the wild pitch allows Norman to score. And then Mercer hit his first home run of the night.
Anthony Norman safe at home plate.
Jordy Mercer is celebrated.
Hector Gimenez warms up in the on-deck circle.
This man wears a scowl worthy of envy.
More Jeff Locke crazy eyes. You wouldn't think his night had gone as well as it did based on these reactions.
Steamer entertains the crowd with a gigantic container of popcorn.
Here we see Steamer antagonizing the Thunder with said popcorn.
Someone in the dugout retaliates....
And then this happens. Good aim, by the way.
Mercer warming up.
Al Tuna dances on the screen in the hopes of summoning more RBIs.
Chase D'Arnaud warming up.
Anthony Norman walking towards the dugout.
Derek Hankins in the midst of a trying 8th inning.
Daniel Moskos, seemingly fully recovered from his attempt at AAA, grins at a thrown strike.
Andrew Lambo reacts to a strike-out.
Tom Filer, pitching coach.
Ryan Long, hitting coach.
Filer waves goodnight.