Keeping score: Pirates-Cubs 14 August 2009

The Pittsburgh Pirates and Chicago Cubs played an afternoon game at Wrigley Field last Friday and I had marked it down as a good way to spend a lazy Friday evening after a long week.  It was also an opportunity to keep score of a game, a favourite hobby of mine that I had somehow managed to miss out on for a month or so. 

My evening of baseball didn’t quite work out as planned.  I got home slightly late for the start of the game and ended up leaving it after three and a half innings.  However, I still had plenty to write down even in that short amount of time. 

It’s always annoying when you want to keep score of a game and aren’t able to join it from the start.  The Gameday function on MLB.com allows you to easily fill in all of the blanks for MLB games, but it’s not quite the same and there’s always a fear that you will miss something live while you are frantically trying to catch up. 

With the game in progress, I grabbed a blank scoresheet from the pile and went to the live boxscore to fill out the lineups.  I then logged into MLB.TV and the first sight I saw was of the Cubs’ outfielder Kosuke Fukudome high-fiving his teammates in the dugout.  The score was 3-0 to the Cubs and, yes, I had missed the three-run home run by a minute.

Not a great start for me and not a great start for the Pirates.  Still, I was able to note everything down fairly quickly and the Buccos’ starting pitcher Charlie Morton was able to retire the next two batters to end the inning.  Maybe we would both recover from a shaky start?

The Pirates got themselves into a good position to hit straight back in the top of the second inning.  Facing Randy Wells, they had runners on first and second but were unable to take advantage.  Jason Jaramillo could only hit a groundball to the second baseman for an easy 4-3 putout to end the inning and send Morton back out to the mound.  He probably now wishes he had stayed in the dugout.

The second inning was nothing short of disastrous for the Pirates, a whole load of fun for the Cubs and the cause of much scribbling by me.  Koyie Hill started things off with a triple and when he stepped up to the plate for the second time in the inning, the Pirates had still failed to get a single person out.  After Hill’s lead-off triple, Morton walked the opposing pitcher Wells (one of the biggest crimes a pitcher can commit) and then gave up two singles, a walk and a double before the Pirates’ manager John Russell decided that perhaps his starting pitcher might not quite be at his best.

Chris Bootcheck came out of the pen to mop up Morton’s mess and instead continued to feed the Cubbie hit binge.  The type of pitching on show would be known as ‘buffet bowling’ in cricket (all you can eat, help yourself, etc).  Bootcheck walked Fukudome to load the bases and then gave up two singles before finally retiring Hill on a called third strike.  The Cubs tacked on another three runs before the inning ended with the score standing at 14-0 to the home team.  Fifteen batters stepped up to the plate, ten runs came home, my pencil was blunt and my chances of fitting the whole game onto one scorecard seemed low.

To add to the surreal nature of the inning, the action was interrupted on several occasions by a formation of six fighter jets buzzing over the ballpark.  They were in town for the weekend as part of the Chicago Air and Water Show and thought that they would entertain the crowd, just in case the procession of hits became boring.  It made for a better sight than a Mexican Wave, that’s for sure, although I couldn’t think of a neat notation for ‘delayed by fighter jets’ on my scorecard.

After such a long inning in the field, the Pirates’ first task was to put together some tough at-bats in the third inning to at least make Wells work for a while and give Bootcheck a few minutes to recover from the onslaught.  I’m sure that was the plan, but it wasn’t Pittsburgh’s day to follow plans.  Down they went in order, 1-2-3, and the Cubs were reaching for their bats once again.  However, they did so with an element of compassion.

There’s an unwritten rule in baseball that says teams with a big lead should back off a bit and not keep piling on the runs inning after inning.  To do otherwise would be to deliberately embarrass your opponent.  The Cubs followed the unwritten rule in the bottom of the third as the three batters were retired in order while seeing only eight pitches combined. 

It’s a noble sentiment, but it doesn’t make for a very entertaining game.  Although the Pirates did score two runs in the top of the fourth inning, the thought of the Cubs’ following that approach at the plate for the rest of the game prompted me to abort my scorekeeping and turn my attention to something else.  I checked back an hour later to see if a miraculous Pirates recovery was in progress, but it was a forlorn hope.  The Cubs were leading 17-2 and I decided to leave my scorecard in its incomplete state.

Still, during that time I was able to keep score of an unusual event.  Batting around to start an inning without making an out is not a common occurrence, with the Indians being the only other team to have do it so far this season.  It goes to prove that whenever you sit down to score a  ballgame, there’s always the chance that you will note down something out of the ordinary. 

Some small consolation for the Pirates? Probably not.  At least they got to enjoy the free Air show.

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