Some sporting thoughts before sunrise …
>> I have a feature this morning on the Pirates’ improved defense, particularly as it relates to the players’ delight that they’re no longer doing those ridiculous shifts from last year.
>> The size of the crowd, 22,016, was impressive enough on a rainy Monday night, no promotions, no marquee opponent, just a … you know, baseball game.
But that’s not really what struck me. Rather, it was how intensely involved they were even from the lineup intros to the Anthem to a rare two-strike clap in Pittsburgh. All attention was on the field. It was remarkable.
Here’s a video of my asking Daniel McCutchen about that and the overall pitching. (With special cameo from Alex Presley.)
Anyway, let me ask you, as well: Anyone who attended the game, by all means, speak up about what you saw and heard in the comments below.
>> Let me be blunt about this: I couldn’t care less which national media outlet, broadcast or print, is paying attention to the Pirates. In fact, however little you might think I care, subtract a ton from that.
I swear, nearly half the correspondence I’m getting from readers is about ESPN, USA Today or whoever.
I know we have a general problem in Pittsburgh with wondering whether people like us. I’m guilty of that myself, having read nearly every article on the planet during the G-20 Summit. But really, this is black and white: The Pirates are in first place. All alone. They’re drawing large, enthusiastic crowds.
What on earth will you hear from a cubicle in Bristol, Connecticut, that makes you feel better about that?
>> Tony Watson was terrific in throwing 2 2/3 innings, and that crowd gave him a nice ovation coming off, especially down behind the dugout.
Here’s what you didn’t see: From what Charlie Morton told me afterward, Watson warmed up in the bullpen three times the previous day in Houston. In normal circumstances, you wouldn’t use him at all the next day, let alone three innings.
>> I asked Morton how he came back the long rain delay and, in his distinct way, he looked at me as if I’m nuts and answered, “Did you see our schedule coming up? I had to. I had to do that for the team.”
As he told me that, coach Euclides Rojas interrupted to give Morton a warm embrace, then walked off without saying a word.
That’s what first place looks like.