The Pittsburgh Pirates defeated the Philadelphia Phillies on Sunday, 6-4, on an extra-inning walk-off homer from birthday boy Josh Palacios. Being there personally, the author describes the action through observations witnessed first-hand.
The Pittsburgh Pirates defeated the Philadelphia Phillies on Sunday, 6-4, thanks to a two-run, walk-off home run by birthday boy Josh Palacios in the tenth inning. It was a thrilling game and I was fortunate enough to be there in person to watch it all take place.
This article is written from the compiled observations from my seat at PNC Park:
Every time I come to PNC Park, it is an almost indescribably beautiful atmosphere inside and out.
I had just come from a tour of Acrisure (really, it’s Heinz to us) Stadium. If you haven’t had a chance to do so yourself, take the time because that is also a beautiful venue. Just walking through the new Steeler Museum and Hall of Honor is worth the trip.
It was an easy walk from Acrisure Stadium to PNC Park with plenty of reasonably priced parking.
Watching the Miracle League superstars take the field before the game was truly something special. The smiles on those kids’ faces was worth the price of admission alone.
My seat was in Section 142, which is high above the Clemente Wall in right-center field. The sun was beating down right on top of us.
There’s a great crowd here. In all, there was a crowd of 34,515 to watch the thriller.
The umpires weren’t very observant when they didn’t realize the Miracle League players and coaches hadn’t left the field yet as Rich Hill threw his first pitch.
Hill struck out Kyle Schwarber to start the game. It’s amazing how Schwarber is hitting around .180 for someone who can hit as hard as he can.
After that, Hill allowed two baserunners before Jared Triolo started a 5-4-3 double play. It looked on replay that the throw from Nick Gonzales pulled Connor Joe’s foot off of the first base bag, but there was no challenge, so the top of the first ended scoreless.
Other than a two-out walk to Andrew McCutchen, there was nothing happening in the bottom of the 1st for the Pirates.
At this point, I looked down and saw several empty seats in the bar area, so I decided to try to change seats as Section 142 was a bit crowded for my liking. As I walked down, I saw an area beneath the stands that had a few seats behind a fence.
I took a walk down and stood between the seats to check the perspective from field level in foul territory in right field. There were two seats to my right with one unoccupied.
I asked the gentlemen sitting in the right-side seat if anyone was sitting in the other seat. He said no and said I could join him. Turns out, it wasn’t his seat, either. That’s where I stayed for the rest of the game.
The umpires missed a call in the top of the 3rd when Johan Rojas bunted a pitch off his foot but ended up with a single. No harm was done, though, as Schwarber struck out again and Triolo started another 5-4-3 double play to end the inning.
Austin Hedges led off the bottom of the 3rd by getting hit by a pitch, although it looked like it missed him on the big scoreboard replay. No matter as Joe immediately hit into a meek 6-4-3 double play, then Bryan Reynolds grounded out to end the third.
Bryce Harper led off the 4th and took a 2-1 pitch that looked high but was called a strike. He stood there and argued for 20 seconds. I was under the impression that umpires were to have NO tolerance for arguing balls and strikes, but Harper had other rules.
Harper would end up walking, then on the next pitch, Alec Bohm smashed a two-run homer to right center, just to the right of the seat I abandoned.
Hill followed by giving up two more hits and seemed to pout around the mound on the second one instead of backing up home plate. He would settle down by getting Josh Harrison to line out to Triolo, then Garrett Stubbs popped out to Triolo in foul territory, and Rojas lined out to Reynolds to end the threat.
Meanwhile, the Pirates’ bats were ice cold as only one ball left the infield (Joe led off the game with a pop fly to center) in the first five innings against starter Christopher Sanchez, although he did hit three Pirates and walked two others. The Pirates didn’t threaten with any of those gifts.
Between innings, a nice couple with a young daughter came to watch a little of the game in our area. The little girl was so funny because she hollered out to Nick Castellanos in right field by name. I asked her parents how old she was. They responded that she was four years old. She then rattled off four or five more of her favorite Phillies. Despite being fans of the “enemy,” it made me grin proudly and with amazement.
Dauri Moreta took over for Hill to start the sixth. As ugly as it was at times, Hill left giving up only two runs and struck out seven.
Moreta was sharp as he sent the Phillies down, 1-2-3. For some reason, Seranthony Dominguez took over for Sanchez despite not allowing a hit over his 5 innings.
I WONDER IF THEY’LL REGRET THAT!
Joe led off the 6th with a single to right center despite falling behind 0-2.
Reynolds then came up and showed why we are glad he signed an extension as he blasted the fourth pitch he saw over the right-center field wall at about the same place as Bohm hit his. Reynolds’ blast excited the crowd and it stayed that way the rest of the afternoon, Pirate and Phillie fans included.
The Pirates managed to load the bases with one out, knocking Dominguez out of the game. As is seemingly typical of the Pirates this year, they couldn’t cash in when it counted as Liover Peguero struck out and Gonzales flew out to right to end the threat.
Jose Hernandez came on at the top of the seventh and walked two of the three men he faced before being replaced by Carmen Mlodzinski. Castellanos struck out before Harper grounded one off of Joe’s glove and to the first base wall, which allowed Stubbs to score to give the Phillies a 3-2 lead.
One has to think that Carlos Santana would have made that play had he not been traded. Did we really need to let him go, especially for an umpteenth shortstop candidate in the minors?
Meanwhile, the lack of quality first base depth in the Pirates’ system got worse by the trading of Santana. Watching Joe play first base Sunday, he is definitely not the answer. But who is at this moment? Will general manager Ben Cherington get that answer before the trade deadline if he unloads one of the remaining veterans left on the major league roster?
The Phillies added another run after Harper’s “single” when Bohm singled home another run and led at the stretch, 4-2.
I was quite moved at the 7th inning stretch by an amazing rendition of “God Bless America” by Mary Ours. It was just beautiful and powerfully done.
The Buccos needed a rally as Endy Rodriguez pinch-hit for Hedges but struck out on three pitches.
Then, the fun began. Connor Joe popped up to the left side of the infield, but Trea Turner and Edmundo Sosa bumped into each other which caused the ball to drop to the grass, allowing Joe to reach first.
Reynolds followed and singled to center on the next pitch. Rojas bobbled the ball as it reached him, which allowed Joe to score from first and Reynolds ended at second. Sadly for the Bucco fans, McCutchen and Henry Davis couldn’t move Reynolds, leaving the Pirates behind 4-3 heading to the eighth.
After Mlodzinski retired the Phillies in order in the top of the 8th (man, does he look like he could be something special!), the Buccos tied it in the bottom half when Triolo singled, then birthday boy Josh Palacios doubled down the left field line, which gave the Bucs men on second and third with no one out. (more on Palacios later). Gonzales brought home Triolo with a one-out sacrifice fly.
Despite having pitched two innings the night before, manager Derek Shelton (a birthday boy himself) sent hometown boy David Bednar into the game (PLEASE don’t trade him, Mr. Cherington!!!) in the top of the ninth inning. It was a thrill to watch Bednar come in from the bullpen with “Renegade” by Styx playing in the background.
The only drawback was that this wasn’t at night to see the full effect of PNC Park theatrics.
Bednar did his job as he only allowed a one-out walk to Schwarber, who was stranded there. The inning ended with Bednar striking out Harper. There was something extra satisfying about that.
In the bottom of the 9th, Joe singled to right and Reynolds got hit by a Craig Kimbrel pitch, which gave the Bucs runners at first and second with no one out. In the stands, we were debating whether or not Shelton should have McCutchen bunt since we only needed a run to win. The conclusion from most was since he wasn’t being paid as a designated hitter to bunt, that he should swing away.
Shelton had McCutchen swing away and it almost paid off as McCutchen ripped a pitch to left, but it was right at Brandon Marsh, who brought it in for the first out. Davis followed by striking out, then Triolo dribbled an “excuse me” grounder to first to end the inning.
I was treated to “free baseball.” Personally, I despise the “ghost runner” rule. How about you?
With a runner on second to start the tenth, Bohm grounded one sharply to Triolo, who made a very impressive diving grab. Triolo got up and threw to first. The throw was a bit wide, but it was one that Joe should have caught. Instead, the ball went off of Joe’s glove and to the first base wall. The Phillies had runners at second and third with no one out.
Again, Joe proved he is not much of a first baseman. Even if he had to come off the bag to make the catch, the runners wouldn’t have advanced an extra base.
I read that Josh Bell may be up for trade. Wouldn't a reunion with Bell make sense, especially considering the Pirates got virtually nothing for him when they traded him to Washington a few years ago?
The next play was one that will be on the 2023 Pirates highlight film without any doubt!
Turner lined sharply to Davis in right field. From my perspective, it appeared plenty deep enough to score Harper from third base. Instead, the rookie showed off an incredible arm as he fired a strike to Rodriguez at home plate.
The throw was so strong and swift that it held Harper at third. The problem was that Bohm assumed Harper was going to try to score, which meant he would advance to third on the throw home.
As Harper retreated, Bohm had to quickly retreat himself back to second. Rodriguez fired to Gonzales covering second to attempt to nail Bohm. As the throw advanced to second, Harper tried to score, but Gonzales fired right back to Rodriguez in plenty of time to throw out Harper for the second out.
The play was scored 9-2-4-2. What was the beautiful part of it all besides getting two outs? All the men involved were rookies!
Angel Perdomo struck out Sosa to end the top of the 10th.
With Triolo on second to start the bottom of the tenth, Palacios stepped to the plate with an order from Shelton to bunt. Palacios was not given an opportunity to do so on the first two pitches as they both missed wildly, including one that almost took his head off.
Ahead 2-0, Palacios was given the green light by Shelton. What happened next will also be featured on the 2023 Pirates highlight film as he blasted a hanging curveball deep to right field to give the Buccos a walk-off win on his and Shelton’s birthday.
Palacios finished 3-5 with a run and 2 RBIs. He hadn’t started a game since early July. It was strange that the left-handed hitter started against left-handed throwing Sanchez and hit the game-winner against left-hander Andrew Vasquez.
Driving home six hours west after the game, I was accompanied by listening to the Orioles thrash the Yankees, 9-3. What was great about it besides listening to the Yankees get crushed was the fact that they struck out a shocking 18 times.
From a fan’s perspective, it was just a thrilling atmosphere and a wonderful way to cap off an incredible four-day vacation.
Thank you, Bucs!!! My love for Pittsburgh baseball has been recharged!
And there was……NOOOOOOOO doubt about it!