The third inning Tuesday night brought the annual Pedro Alvarez triple, appearing as it reliably does once every summer around here; you know, like the Steve Miller Band concert.
Big ol' jet airliner, rounding second as the 2-1 pitch he rifled into right-center field settled at the base of the wall. As El Toro achieved the largely unprecedented speeds of an active runway, it couldn't help but occur to you that the roaring PNC Park crowd was probably going to be too loud for anyone to hear Alvarez's hamstring twang like a snapped banjo string.
But it's not that kind of year around here, is it?
No, no, the kind of year it is around here is the kind where Josh Harrison comes off the bench to get the bottom of the ninth started precisely because left-handed reliever Mike Dunn is still in the game after striking out Alvarez in the eighth, and instead of getting it started, he gets it finished by taking Dunn to the seats in right.
The kind of year it is around here is that Alvarez slides joyously in that third inning, belly-first toward the outfield side of the bag, nose-first toward the third-base bag on a night he couldn't seem to find it with his foot or with his better fielding judgment, such as it is.
If you thought Pedro was setting personal speed records toward third Tuesday night, you should have seen him escaping the locker room.
Gone in 60 seconds.
That triple tied the score, 3-3, after Andrew McCutchen jump-started the Pirates with a two-run double off Miami's Henderson Alvarez, who shut them out only two weekends ago.
But it was a Pedro error in the seventh, his only charged error of at least three misplays around the bag, that reloaded the bases after McCutchen appeared to bail the Pirates out of that inning with still another galloping-driving-stretching-glove-flashing catch inches above the center-field lawn.
The bases loaded with Fish, .190-hitting Jeff Mathis sliced a 2-1 pitch from Vin Mazzaro that was scheduled for touchdown near the foul line, at which point it seemed only a question of whether Miami would suddenly be ahead by two or three.
But again, it's not that kind of year around here, is it?
No, no, Mathis' shot landed foul and two pitches later he lifted one harmlessly to Starling Marte in left, and some 27,907 settled in to await a more favorable verdict, even if Pedro would again attempt to postpone it in the eighth.
Batting with the bases loaded and no one out against a drawn-in infield, Alvarez didn't have to do much more than put the ball in play against Dunn, who lurked in the bullpen nearly three hours for precisely this moment. Dunn fell behind Alvarez, 2-0, then dismissed him on three pitches, the third of which he failed to swing at even though he stared at it real, real hard.
Alvarez is now hitting .213 against left-handed pitching, which has allowed only three of his 27 home runs. Yet the oft-detested lefty-righty thing taketh and it giveth as well, witness the Harrison pie-in-the-face heroics.
When you see that on the same night Mathis' potential three-run triple falls foul, the same night McCutchen saves the game still again, the same night Alvarez rounds second like Omar Moreno and lands in a beauteous pile of baseball dirt, you'd be pressed not to conclude that this is a summer unlike any seen around here in a long, long time.
"Yeah, those are the little things that happen that make you go, 'Yeah, something's going on,' " manager Clint Hurdle said afterward. "We're gonna commit to keep showing up and be a little bit better every time out, but those things, when they do show up, they're feel-goods.
"The more feel-goods ya get, the more you feel good. There's no doubt about it. The more you see things like that, the more confidence it bodes. When [Mathis'] ball turns at the end, three inches foul, to see Pedro go head-first into third, that gets everybody excited. To see Mazzaro come in and, with two pitches, finish that [sixth] inning, all those little things add up."
Things will add up a little faster, of course, when Alvarez stops looking for his first August home run and lifts his average since the All-Star break well past the .197 figure he lugged into the game Tuesday night.
There doesn't seem to be any hurry though, as all of baseball just watches the Pirates proceed at their own pace, skittish as it might be, toward a fast-clarifying inevitability.
Gene Collier: email@example.com. First Published August 7, 2013 4:00 AM