This should have been the most horrifying snake story of the weekend, except perhaps for that business about the 40 pythons in the Brantford, Ontario hotel room.
Tell you what, Google those 40 pythons and then you can judge for yourself whether that crazy Canadian business (I mean the place had a no pets policy) was any more revolting than what the Diamondbacks did to the Pirates Saturday, torturing them for most of four hours and scaring up every last thing you could care to worry about as the pennant race grinds on.
The context was a pyrotechnic show of offense, but since Arizona scored 15 of the 20 runs in the middle game of this series and smacked 20 of the 31 hits, the great majority of the latest PNC Park sellout found it merely offensive.
What other kind of theater can give you twin three-run bombs by the best bangers in the league and plop them into the narrative so that they are both meaningless?
The home run battle between Pirates masher Pedro Alvarez and Diamondbacks first baseman Paul Goldschmidt lurched forward, with both players launching their 30th home runs of a summer in which they continue to share the National League lead in that category.
Alvarez's came with his team behind by seven runs, and Goldschmidt's came with his team ahead by seven runs.
That should give Elias something to do.
But it was a near-three-run double by Neil Walker, the one that nullified itself when it fell a scant swatch of grass foul in right, in a deflating sixth inning, that probably stands as the one irritant the Pirates won't be able to shower away as easily as they might.
It has been increasingly apparent without getting said out loud all that much, but it is simply too easy for opposing managers to bring on any nondescript, left-handed reliever, turn Walker into a right-handed hitter and find their way out of almost any difficult situation.
"You look for good, you find good; you look for bad, you find bad," Hurdle said about Walker's glaring switch-hitting dichotomy. "We pay attention to how it works. I believe the best protection is [when Walker hits] in the second spot [in the lineup]. It's not the same when he's in the fifth spot when [they can pitch to] Pedro and Neil and [Garrett] Jones, then you're losing leverage.
"So if they want to bring a lefty in for one guy, to flip Neil, and you've got [Andrew McCutchen] behind him, it's a little bit different situation."
McCutchen was behind Walker Saturday, but there were two out before Arizona's Will Harris plunked Josh Harrison and Starling Marte consecutively to load the bases in that sixth. It was at that point that Diamondbacks manager Kirk Gibson correctly summoned left-hander Joe Thatcher to put Walker in the right-handed batter's box, where he was hitting .212, 58 points lower than as a left-handed hitter.
Walker was again buried alive almost immediately in such a situation, taking the first strike and waving at a second to fall behind, 0-2. He watched the next pitch drop out of the strike zone, then swatted nothing more threatening than an 87 mph fastball down the line in right.
At this point, it was only an 8-5 Arizona lead. One second later, Jose Tabata was crossing the plate with Harrison on his heels and Marte flying around the bases as well. One second after that, Walker's ball fell on the wrong side of the foul line, sending everyone back to their places.
Walker fouled off the next pitch, then swung and missed to end the inning, and pretty much the game as the Pirates don't typically need too many invitations to fail to overturn an 8-0 deficit.
They've scored nine or more runs in a game exactly eight times this year, or 7 percent of the time.
The time is approaching when some people have to seriously study whether a platoon at second base between Walker and right-handed hitting Josh Harrison might be a prudent departure from where Hurdle has such an obvious strategical Achilles.
The manager seemed to be having none of that Saturday night.
"I think [Walker's] right-handed stroke has shown some momentum," Hurdle said. "He's worked hard. Every day we evaluate what the best lineup is to throw out, so we'll see as we move forward. He's workin' really, really hard on this because he believes he's got more to give from that side.
"We continue to go back and look at the 2010 tape in which the splits were very comparable."
In that 2010 season, Walker hit .298 left-handed and .289 right-handed, but he hit .263 right-handed the next year, .248 the next, and now, after a ninth-inning single with the Pirates down by 10 runs, he's back up to .221.
If Walker is to become a former switch-hitter, that's probably a change that management sees as an offseason project. But on a club that witnessed a full-blown pitching disaster Saturday, a club that started 51-30 but is a consistently skittish 21-20 ever since, no initiative that might change the rhythm just a bit should be dismissed.
Gene Collier: email@example.com. First Published August 18, 2013 4:00 AM