Pirates first baseman Adam LaRoche, right, collides with second baseman Freddy Sanchez (12) but makes the catch on an infield fly by Indians second baseman Luis Valbuena to end the top of the third inning.
By Chuck Finder Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
No matter that this particular Cleveland-Pittsburgh rivalry has not surfaced here for six years, but its return did not draw much of a crowd.
The Indians-Pirates game at PNC Park last night drew the smallest crowd in the 21-game, 13-year history of their regular-season meetings (19,109). Quite a few of those were Indians fans, detectable by their adoration of Grady Sizemore returning from the disabled list and their clever Choooooo-ing of outfielder Shin-soo Choo.
The previous low mark, in a series that has attracted 815,731 total patrons, was the 26,305 at PNC Park June 20, 2003, for the first of a three-game series in which the Pirates won the first two in matching 15-inning affairs. The Indians had not been back here since.
"I think it would be a good rivalry," Pirates manager John Russell said, paralleling the policy of Pirates administrators who have asked Major League Baseball's bosses to make this an annual interleague match rather than just once the past five years -- 2006 in Cleveland. "When I played, Pittsburgh was in the [National League] East ... especially the Phillies' series was always a huge [rivalry] series. Now that we're in the Central, you don't really have that.
"I think adding Cleveland each year would be a very good thing for us, because we are pretty close. Fan bases on both sides. I think it would be really good for us, and I think it would be good for baseball."
In previous series against the Indians, the Pirates have averaged 42,063 (1997), 42,146 (1999), 36,666 (2001 in PNC Park's opening year) and 33,654 (2003), and they may barely top any of those series' two-game totals by the end of this three-game set tomorrow. The worst the Indians did at home: a 31,629 average in the previous series between these neighbors (2006). A 2003 game here was the only other time in the series where attendance dipped below 30,000 before last night.
He's back ...
That seldom-seen player in the PNC Park outfield last night?
No, not Steve Pearce -- playing his 48th career game in right but first since Sept. 28. That was Cleveland's Sizemore.
The three-time All-Star and two-time Gold Glover who attracts female fan groups that call themselves either Grady's Ladies or Grady Girls returned to the Indians' lineup after a stint on the 15-day disabled list with left elbow inflammation. He started in center field, where he made a dandy, back-to-the-field running catch on Robinzon Diaz's shot to the wall in the fourth inning. He batted second, delivering a single in the first and a two-run triple that eluded Pearce in the right-center alley in the third.
• Andrew McCutchen, with a ninth-inning dribbler to drive in the Pirates' fourth run, extended his hitting streak to 11 games -- longest by an NL rookie this season.
• Adam LaRoche's leadoff homer in the ninth went an estimated 454 feet before it bounced off the Riverwalk and into the Allegheny River -- the 26th such Pirates homer to reach water at PNC Park.
• Russell on the Colorado Rockies, the "hottest team in the world" after having swept his team last weekend and winning 17 of 18 entering last night: "The way they're playing, they may not lose a game the rest of the year. Everything is going their way."
• After 13 of their past 16 on the road, Russell and the Pirates appreciate the North Shore: "Doesn't seem like we've been home very much. We came home for three days [the weekend before last] and went right back out. It'll be nice to be home for nine days."