Monday, August 20, 2007
I’ve gone to Phillies game off and on for a while now. Due to baseball’s unbalanced schedule, I only get one shot a year to see them in Pittsburgh and it doesn’t always coincide with my schedule. (The 2002 series, for example, came during final exams for law school.) So I usually make the most of the situation whenever I get the chance. I haven’t yet seen a game at Citizens Bank Ballpark, but I hope that I will one day soon.
My wife & I arrived at 12:30, not entirely certain that the game would be played at all, due to the rain pounding the Pittsburgh region. We parked our car and moseyed over to the stadium and took our seats, only to discover that the game was delayed until 2:15 due to the rain. I occupied myself by snapping some pictures and watching a little of the replay of Game 3 of the 1971 World Series that the stadium put on the scoreboard.
Our seats were good. A little secret about PNC Park: it is very nice and might actually live up to the team’s billing that it is the best ballpark in baseball. Don’t buy the $25-30 seats on the lower levels of the stadium. Even sitting where my wife & I did, in Section 307, Row T, we still got to see the game perfectly and also got treated to beautiful views of the city’s downtown skyline. I’ve grown used to the city’s downtown skyline, so it barely registers with me anymore, but it is quite a sight.
Finally the game got under way at 2:19. Jimmy Rollins lead-off the game was a solo home run to center field that produced groans from the home town crowd and cheers from the pockets of Phillies fans that ringed the stadium. The game, for the next five innings, was a taut pitchers duel that saw Kyle Lohse throttle the Pirates lineup, while the Phillies struggled to make headway with Ian Snell, the Pirates best pitcher. I was rather impressed with Lohse’s ability to mix up speeds and keep the Pirates offense off-balance.
Then, in the top of the sixth inning, the Phillies seemingly blew the game open when Aaron Rowand was hit by a pitch and Greg Dobbs singled to center field. Russell Branyan, the hero of last Tuesday’s game against the Nationals, promptly hammered a three-run home run that seemingly salted the victory for the Phillies. With Lohse cruising, it seemed apparent that the Phillies would walk out of Pittsburgh with a 2-1 series victory, as I predicted.
Naturally the wheels came off the Phillies in the seventh. After Lohse retired two of the Pirates three big bats – getting Adam LaRoche and Jason Bay out while surrendering a single to Xavier Nady – it seemed like the Phillies would go into the eighth trying to build on a 4-0 lead. Instead the Pirates, with two outs, promptly hammered the Phillies. Matt Kata’s three-run double closed the game to 4-3, then J.C.Romero entered the game and surrendered the tying run. Antonio Alfonseca promptly sank the Phillies by entering the game and walking Jack Wilson before surrendering three more runs to make it 7-4. The tame Pirates fans roared with approval while the angry Phillies fans were left to stew in their seats.
In the eighth the Phillies did their best to squander any chances of getting back into the game when Wes Helms grounded into a double play and killed any chance at a rally. As the rains fell on the city of Pittsburgh my wife and I elected to hit the road, joining the exodus of Pirates and Phillies fans heading home. The final was an anticlimactic 8-4 Pirates victory.
Generally speaking, I had fun aside from the final score. Going to a baseball game in Pittsburgh is a nice experience for the opposing side, partly because the years of losing Pirates teams have dulled the fans enthusiasm. I saw dozens of Phillies fans wearing Cole Hamels and Ryan Howard jerseys calmly mixing with Pirates fans in the concourse. In fact, I saw many more Phillies jerseys at the game than Pirates jerseys.
Anyone else at the game? Post your comments here.
Our next trip to the Citizens Bank Park stadium will be this Sunday against the Padres.