Sunday, June 15, 2008

Game 69: Orioles 8 Pirates 7

I got to Baltimore around 2 PM yesterday and while walking around town with my friends was immediately impressed by the amount of Pirate fans in the city. While crossing the street, some random scruffy looking gentleman screamed at me:

"When are LaRoche and Freddy going to start hitting?!?"

"Probably never," was my response, which was some great reverse foreshadowing. After some rain and a brief panic that I had driven 300 miles for a rainout, things cleared up and we hung out a bit on my friend's roof deck. When I say that he lives close to the ballpark, I'm not quite doing things justice:

As we were drinking beers and waiting for game time, we were actually able to heckle Oriole fans on the concourses from his roof with some "Let's Go Bucs!" chants. I also got a huge kick out of the three people sitting in the top row of the stadium, in their seats and ready to go at 6 PM for the 7:05 game:

Talk about diehards. We made our way over to the park around 6:30 and grabbed our tickets from my friend Scott's girlfriend. If, by some odd chance, you had simultaneously forgotten where you were and wondered if any team ever has had a worse slogan than "We Will," the tickets to Oriole games can answer both questions for you:

This is ... Birdland? What does that even mean?

Anyways we made it to our seats just as the tarp was being taken off the field. We were on the third base line, so we had a great view of the famous train warehouse in right field.

On the whole, Camden reminded me a lot of Jake in Cleveland, which isn't that surprising since the biggest criticism of the new wave of ballparks is that they all look pretty similar. The park does offer a nice view of downtown Baltimore and it's not technically Camden's fault that the Baltimore skyline's got nothing on the Pittsburgh skyline.

Please don't get me wrong, because I'm not hating Camden. It's definitely a great park and an awesome place to watch a game (I definitely rank it above the Jake on the short list of parks that I've been to). I'm just a bit biased in my unconditional love for PNC Park.

I was more impressed with the Pirate fans around our seats. I'd guess the crowd was made up of somewhere between 25/30% Pirate fans for the game. From just my seat I could see a bunch of Pirate jerseys. Of course there were several Roberto jerseys:
I was more impressed with the Andy Van Slyke jersey (there were actually two guys in AVS shirts in my section).

My favorite, though, was the guy with the Roberto shirt and the mustard yellow John Olerud helmet. Just an awesome combination.

There was also actually a baseball game that took place. Radhames Liz was throwing smoke at the Pirates (hit hit 98 on the gun several times in the early innings), but didn't seem to have much control of his breaking stuff. He threw Nady several fastballs in a row that he timed, then whacked one that clocked in at 96 mph out on a rope to dead center. We all figured that would only be a start since Duke was on the mound, but we had no idea what we were in for.

In the bottom of the third, we started angering the nearby Oriole fans. Scott (on the left) asked me while we were wandering around town before the game, asked me if Brian Roberts was any good, because seemingly 90% of the Baltimore population was wearing Roberts' t-shirts. I responded that he was OK, but everyone likes him because he's short. As I said this, a 10-year old walked by wearing a #1 shirt and I jokingly added, "Actually, that might be him." When Roberts came up in the third inning, Scott realized just how short Roberts is and yelled, "GO BACK TO MIDDLE EARTH!!!" We immediately got some ugly glances, so he added, "SHOULDN'T YOU BE RIDING BIG BROWN?!?" while Mike (on the right) astutely added, "Hey, is he the short-stop?" This started a nightlong trend of us making fun of how short Brian Roberts is, followed by Roberts getting a big hit. In this case, he doubled in Adam Jones.

In the top of the fourth, another nightlong trend began. Scott asked me if Freddy Sanchez would start hitting again. I gave a few reasons as to why I think he might not, and Freddy responded with a laser home run into the stands to give the Pirates a 2-1 lead. If you're counting at home, that would be the Pirates' second lead of the game. In the fifth, we made fun of Roberts again, and he doubled in Jones again to tie things up. In the sixth, the Orioles grabbed the lead because John Russell had no feel for just how fried Duke was after loading the bases with one out. An eight pitch at-bat with Adam Jones ensued, ending in a strikeout (though it was clear that Jones was waiting Duke out and just missed the pitch he was looking for) and was followed by Alex Cintron almost clearing the bases with a double, with only Nate McLouth and Jack Wilson combining on a nice throw to nail Ramon Hernandez at the plate.

After that, things started to get weird. With two runners on and two out and me in the stands bad-mouthing Jose Bautista for everyone to hear, Bautista (please, stop calling him Joey Bats) ripped a three-run jack to left field. The guy in front of me in a ketchup-red jersey, waving a Pirate flag started going nuts.

A nice and loud "Let's Go Bucs!" chant broke out, while the O's fans couldn't even muster up the boos to shut us up. Shortly after Bautista's homer, I made a horrific observation on the out of town scoreboard:

Can you read that line? Jody Gerut? Back in the big-leagues? I need to start paying more attention to these things.

When the seventh inning kicked off, I saw Grabow on the mound and remarked, "Well, at least getting Duke through six innings means we don't have to see the crappy part of the bullpen." In response, the baseball gods that I have clearly angered responded with Nick Markakis's two-run homer off of Grabow that gave the Orioles a 6-5 lead (the Pirates THIRD blown lead of the game, if you're keeping track). Disheartened, I sat down and said to Mike, "This just means it's going to be even more agonizing when we come back in the top of the ninth and lose it in the bottom." Yes, I seriously said that.

Unfortunately, I got one prediction right. As you all know by now, Adam LaRoche utilized the Willie Stargell method of hitting ("Close your eyes and just swing!" Pops used to say) in the ninth inning with George Sherrill (who's as much of a lefty killer as Marte) on the mound and managed to whack what seemed to be a certain game-winning two-run homer. The Pirate fans in attendance went nuts.

And it was all downhill from there. Capps blew the lead by giving up a homer to Melvin Mora's injury replacement, then walked a hitter, at which point I knew we were screwed. A few minutes later, Ramon Hernandez ended the game with his walkoff single.

Walking out of the park and in the bars we went to after the game (which all smelled overwhelmingly of Jagermeister ... ugh) Orioles' fans got their share of jabs in at the many Pirate fans that hit the town for some much needed drinks. "You know how to break out of a slump? Play the Pirates!" "Congratulations on your loss tonight, guys!" and the expected ribbing, which was generally good natured. The reaction, by me and by every other Pirate fan I saw taking crap was universal, "Yes. We suck. We know. We're Pirate fans."

Different city, different park, same old Pirates.