Now we’re at the All-Star break and there are the usual chinks in the armor visible in our team of destiny, or maybe a team destined to disappoint. The other night, a steamy one at our lovely ballyard on the Allegheny, Jeff Locke pitched a beaut of a game but had no offensive support. A nice performance, three hits in seven innings — wasted.
One of the many delights of this team is Locke, barely named to the starting rotation in April, only to be named to the All-Star Game in July. You should know that he’s from the tiny village of Redstone, N.H., and that New Hampshire’s own Alan B. Shepard Jr. rode a Redstone booster into space in 1961, but it was the great Lloyd Jones, chronicler of the White Mountains sports scene, who had the wit to dub him the Redstone Rocket. Take that, Roger Clemens.
Last year’s Pirates did have a whiff of the buccaneer to them, all swashbuckle but, alas, no belt. This season’s team seems to be sailing more of a sloop than a pirate ship, with a couple of headsails (Andrew McCutchen and Starling Marte) forward of the mast. Not that there’s smooth sailing ahead. Pirates fans know these waters.
Indeed, the curious thing is that, as Sen. Edward M. Kennedy said in an entirely different context, the hope still lives and the dream doesn’t seem ready to die at PNC Park this summer. Even amid a worrisome losing streak last week, there was a special grace to these Bucs, a lyricism in how Marte pulled down a long fly in left, right there at the warning path, and then flipped the ball to a child in the bleachers in one long legato motion; or in how McCutchen exceeds expectations not only at the plate during the game but also along the third base side beforehand, lingering longer than any All Star, signing all manner of baseballs, programs and uniform shirts.