Gene Collier: A slow, sure blunder with some thunder



Slowly, gently, night unfurls its splendor.

Lyrically sound as that is, of course, there's nothing splendorous if the night in question involves the Pirates and the Reds unfurling Chapter 2 in an absolutely claustrophobic midweek tedium festival masquerading as a standard three-game series.

Grasp it, sense it, tremulous and tender.

Two-Minute Warning: Tip of hat to Bouchette, Noll, Gwynn

Columnist Gene Collier has praise for a Hall of Famer to be and two dearly departed legends already enshrined. (Video by Melissa Tkach; 6/19/2014)

So why the lyrics from "The Phantom of the Opera" right here in the middle of a short, shaggy failure of a homestand? Well it's not from any bolt of bored-columnist inspiration.

No, "Phantom" made an actual cameo in this one, and it was easily the best thing about Reds 9, Pirates 2, which was your PM score, pre-monsoon. It ended, 11-4.

As the Reds batted in a third inning that lasted longer than Teen Week on Jeopardy, the Gateway Clipper Queen drifted up the Allegheny River in the fading twilight. Due in large part to the dead silence inside PNC Park while the Reds were taking Edinson Volquez and Stolmy Pimentel and knocking their heads together for seven runs, the music from the boat wafted unimpeded over the baseball diamond.

Seriously.

I wasn't the only one filling in the lyrics

Turn your face away from the garish light of day.

Turn your thoughts away from cold unfeeling light.

And listen to the music of the night.

As the Queen sailed under the Clemente Bridge and out of earshot, I thought, Oh God please come back.

Even on the London stage, in its most elaborate form, "Phantom" usually wraps up in two hours, 20 minutes -- 2:23 at the outside.

In the case of the Pirates and Reds this week, 2:23 means about four innings. Whatever it was that caused the first game of this series, a 6-5 Reds win that nearly vaporized with a Clint Barmes homer in the ninth, to stretch out over three hours and 54 minutes came back with an even more soporific attitude in Game 2 of the series.

Before we highlight general catatonia of Wednesday night, let's just point out that nine innings of 6-5 baseball that takes 3:54 is borderline criminal. By contrast, Game 7 of the 1960 World Series, nine innings of 10-9 baseball, took 2:36.

You might have suspected the contest Wednesday night would have no rhythm right there in the top of the first, when with two outs and nobody on, Volquez walked off to the back of the mound and Joey Votto strolled away toward the dugout as though instructed by some intergalactic force -- I guess because the pace was just too frantic at the point.

Things slowed down when the Pirates came to bat, mostly because of leadoff hitter Gregory Polanco, who extended his hitting streak to eight games. When I first saw Polanco only last week, I was thrilled that he walked from the on-deck circle straight into the batters box rather than take the more typical stroll around the block, behind the catcher and the umpire. But when Polanco gets to the box, he immediately backs out and begins some elaborate pantomime that I believe might involve making French toast.

Thus the pace was set, and Volquez took the cue and strolled with it. Edinson threw 64 badly chosen but well-spaced pitches, which resulted in exactly seven outs. In the course of allowing eight earned runs, Volquez must have set the National League record for resin bag juggling when he wasn't digging in front of the rubber so much it was a wonder there wasn't a demonstration by the anti-fracking crowd.

So the first three innings took 85 minutes, mostly because the Cincinnati third, between the first out and the second, went like this: single, single, throw to the wrong base by Andrew McCutchen, wild pitch, double, walk, hit batsman, single, single, force play at the plate sparking the first of two Crew Chief Reviews of Rule 7.13.

Talk about chills.

How many young boys and girls went home with that great baseball memory, the one that will one day in the future have them say, "Dad, will you ever forget the night we saw two Crew Chief Reviews of Rule 7.13 in the same game?"

Baseball Fever, baby.

On the first of those, Russell Martin appeared to force out Cincinnati's Devin Mesoraco at the plate but violated 7.13, apparently, that being the rule that is supposed to prevent violent plate collisions. I think they got that wrong in New York, where these things are reviewed, and I think they watched part of an episode of "Veep" while they were doing it. It took three minutes, 33 seconds. A second such play involving Pedro Alvarez, who was ruled safe for the first Pirates run before the rain delay -- oh c'mon, you had to know that was coming -- took only 2:27.

Clint Hurdle, for his part, stayed on the infield in that third inning long enough to get himself ejected, instantly winning the Smartest Man In The Park trophy.

That prevented the manager from having to endure the balance of the Pirates' third consecutive loss, or what certainly looked like it when the lights on top of the Gulf Building started flashing in a way that suggested an imminent attack by Godzilla.

For news on how that came out, consult the later editions or visit our award-winning website at www.wontthisgameeverend.com.

Gene Collier: gcollier@post-gazette.com.


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