Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Not Quite a Win to Remember

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Not Quite a Win to Remember

Article excerpt

There's nothing like a classical free-swinging, wall-banging Pirates-Phillies series on a hot summer weekend in one corner of the state or the other, and this is certainly nothing like one.

There were plenty of times across multiple decades, lest we forget, when the two Pennsylvania teams tore up each other's pitching staffs like marauding PennDOT crews, albeit with the menacing lumber of Stargell and Parker and Schmidt and Luzinski.

This is not one of those times.

For the first time in a week, the Pirates Saturday managed to score four times, thrice without hitting a ball out of the infield, and the Phillies tried to duplicate that exact strain of tiny ball in a comically incompetent eighth inning that would leave them a run short in both games of the series so far.

By far the most riveting play of the Pirates' third consecutive win on this home stand came on a ball that traveled less than 20 feet off the bat of Philly's Cody Asche in the eighth.

The Phillies had just chopped a two-run deficit in half against the hugely reliable Tony Watson, and with the bases loaded and nobody out, they immediately set about the grim business of letting Watson wriggle free.

Maikel Franco chopped one to third that got Jeff Francoeur thrown out at the plate, then Asche dribbled Watson's 0-1 pitch into the grass in front of catcher Chris Stewart as Chase Utley steamed toward him with the tying run.

"Swinging bunt," Watson said a couple minutes after the Pirates bullpen brought home Gerrit Cole's 10th win. "Stew kind of did a little stutter step. It was kind of in no man's land. We work on that in spring training. It's usually a suicide squeeze.

"You come in, try to bare-hand it; it's do or die."

In this case, it was do or tie, and as we saw here Friday night, a tie between these teams right now can mean 4 hours of unrelenting tedium, so Watson's flip to Stewart to retire Utley was as crucial as the 3-1 pitch he threw to Freddy Galvis on which Galvis grounded out to end the inning.

If there was a bigger pitch anywhere across these nine innings, it was the 12th pitch thrown by Arquimedes Caminero to Andres Blanco an inning earlier. …

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