Collier: A stormy win with a lot of darkness
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On the dark and stormy night they clawed back to within 2 1/2 games of first place in the National League Central, the Pirates reinforced some number of suspicions, not all of them necessarily positive or portentous.
First, they established that Correia The Angry is a better starter than reliever, even on a night when some of his own teammates seemed ready to scuttle his spot start with their own spotty performances.
Is Pedro Alvarez still in the big leagues?
It's not so much his 0 for the past 10 that makes you wonder, nor the fact that his most recent home run has faded to nearly three weeks in the rear-view mirror; it's more his posture on a fifth-inning chopper Wednesday night that had probably convinced Kevin Correia that he was out of a very difficult inning.
But then he wasn't.
Arizona's Willie Bloomquist had just doubled home the third Diamondbacks run, chip-chopping Correia's lead to 4-3, but Correia came right back to fan the increasingly dangerous Chris Johnson for the second out. Cleanup hitter Paul Goldschmidt, who has tortured the Pirates this week, then beat a 2-0 pitch into the grass toward third.
With plenty of opportunity to charge that ball and end the inning without straining anything, Alvarez instead waited for a hop that was too difficult for him to handle.
Naturally, he got one.
That error, the first of four by the home team, allowed the tying run to score.
Five minutes later, after Neil Walker had untied it with his career-best duplicating fourth and fifth RBIs of the night, Alvarez came up with runners on second and third and a chance to break things open definitively. He whiffed on a 2-2 pitch, and then Rod Barajas took care of the final two outs of what had shaped up to be a monster inning.
With Michael McKenry and his eight-game hitting streak, 11 homers and 22 extra base hits (out of 40) still on Clint Hurdle's bench in favor of Barajas' scintillating .202, the starting catcher first took what appeared to be a wild pitch from Ian Kennedy, turned and waived Garrett Jones in from third, then discovered to his fright that the ball bounced hard off the back wall right to Diamondbacks catcher Miguel Montero. Jones was nailed.
Then Barajas struck out.
At that point, the first five hitters in Hurdle's lineup were 8 for 14 with two homers and six RBIs. The last three hitters were 0 for 8 with three strikeouts and six runners left in scoring position.
Jordy Mercer's first major league homer, the one that made it 7-4 leading off the sixth, is also the one that will stoke the folks who have seen enough of Clint Barmes at the bottom of this lineup. Barmes' defense has been so good that keeping him in the lineup is highly, uh, defensible, but the same can't be said for Barajas.
But you knew all that.
It just happened to be at that point that the entire production turned into a gothic horror show in which the umpires, usually with nothing to prove regarding their sanity, failed to demonstrate they know enough to come in out of an electrical storm, let alone merely the rain.
With the top of the Gulf Building's meteorological indicators glowing blood red (what, imminent rivers of blood?), the rain started coming in sheets ahead of great dramatic bolts and flashes of lightning.
Play never stopped, but nerves frayed fast in the charged air.
The Diamondbacks, who hadn't had a single player, coach, or manager ejected all season, saw Chris Young and Justin Upton tossed in the seventh after Young was called out on strikes by Larry Vanover.
Soon after that, Hurdle had an extended between-innings conversation with the umpires.
"Talkin' meteorology?" I asked the manager.
"Nope, never got around to that," he said.
Don't want to be overly cautious, I guess. It's only 50 players and a good portion of 25,175 customers huddled in an electrical storm among eight giant light towers in the pouring rain.
But how about that Joel Hanrahan?!
The hammer got one of his classical opportunities in the ninth with the Pirates ahead 7-6, ran to the mound and stomped the Diamondbacks dead in the wet grass. Hanrahan whiffed Goldschmidt, Jason Kubel, and Montero in succession to return these Pirates to their high water mark, 16 games over .500 at 63-47.
Thunder, lightning, snakes, horror, two ejections, three Pirates homers, four Pirates errors -- oh yeah, you'd love to have seen the whole thing. But then, you know enough to come in out of the rain.
First Published August 9, 2012 12:00 am