As soon as Matt Capps polished off an effortless ninth inning by retiring Jamey Carroll on a ground ball to short, I began looking ahead to Andrew McCutchen‘s at-bat in the bottom of the inning. It seemed fitting that McCutchen would get the opportunity to win the game, a well-played game that saw several high leverage situations as the late innings unfolded. As Jack Wilson and Eric Hinske knocked back-to-back singles, I could see the storybook ending happening before my eyes.
Then I noticed something terrible. McCutchen was speaking to third base coach Tony Beasley during a brief break in the play. Alone in my living room, I shouted at the television, “Don’t you dare have him [bleep]ing bunt!” McCutchen squared and bunted the first pitch outside the first base line. I shouted something else that was mostly incoherent, wondering how in the world we could command our hottest hitter to bunt with the winning run at second base.
For the next pitch, FSN went to their camera located in the upper deck behind home plate. I groaned again as McCutchen squared, then pulled back and took a ball. But I noticed something funny out of the corner of my eye. Jack took his usual aggressive secondary lead off second base with the pitch. But he never stopped. Before the Indians could react, Wilson was diving into third with a stolen base. I enthusiastically slammed my hand off the coffee table so hard that I had to check that it hadn’t cracked. It was a great read of the defense by Jack, who has executed the wheel play on the defensive side many times in his life. It moved the Pirates 90 feet closer to victory, but that was not the most significant aspect of the play. Jack essentially handed McCutchen his bat and gave him the opportunity to win the game. Two pitches later, he did just that by using his great hands to deposit the baseball into left field. I proceeded to bounce around the room, with a giant smile on my face.
There were many significant plays in this game. McCutchen’s game-winning single. McCutchen’s walk in the seventh. Nyjer’s catch in the eighth. Grabow’s strikeout of Garko a few batters later. And so on. But Jack’s stolen base was the one that stood out to me.