Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Rare Surge of Power Eventually Fizzles Out

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Rare Surge of Power Eventually Fizzles Out

Article excerpt

Justin Morneau was at home plate beneath about half of a harvest moon when this notation went into my notebook:

"Where is the long ball?"

This was in the fourth inning Friday night, with the reliably dreadful Chicago Cubs leading the Pirates by three runs, and with a curious chill having befallen the purveyors of big-bang offense not only locally but across this great land.

Morneau was just a reminder, as it happened, mostly because he still had the same 17 home runs with which he arrived from Minnesota two weeks ago, and then he tapped weakly to the mound for the second out of the inning.

But the Morneau No More Homers Watch was nothing compared to the wait for Pedro Alvarez, the National League home run leader who had gone 15 games without rounding the bases, and even that wasn't much when you consider that the league's No. 2 banger -- Arizona's Paul Goldschmidt -- had gone 20 games without a homer.

When the league's top two sluggers string a combined 35 consecutive games together without leaving the park, I guess you get the kind of historical aberration that could easily go into the record books here in little more than two weeks.

Alvarez could become the first person to lead the league with fewer than 35 home runs (in a non-strike year) since 1946, unless either he or Goldschmidt or perhaps Cincinnati's Jay Bruce gets around to preventing it.

All of that considered, there was Alvarez -- barely a minute later -- arching a Jake Arrieta pitch off the top of the wall in deepest right-center field, then galloping around third at the behest of coach Nick Leyva and scoring standing up when second baseman Darwin Barney couldn't turn a relay throw.

There was no error on the play, so Alvarez's 33rd home run was the first inside-the-parker of his career, if not the last, but there was even less time to ponder that because Russell Martin launched Arrieta's next pitch into a more conventional home run orbit, well into the seats in left, and just as suddenly the Pirates had begun to do what you're supposed to do to Arrieta and his 5.63 big-league ERA: Hit him hard.

They let him off the hook in the first inning when Morneau struck out and Alvarez tapped to first with Jose Tabata and Andrew McCutchen on base, and they permitted him to retire 10 in a row after that. …

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