Trip to PNC Park in Pittsburgh

It was still just the fourth inning, and I’d already won a Denny’s breakfast, Dunkin Donuts coffee, and Chick-fil-a sandwich. Never before had the Mets’ poor play been so rewarding. In fact, everything about my first experience at a baseball game in Pittsburgh was enjoyable—except for the game’s result.

A Pirates home game is different than a Mets home game. There is nothing to do near Citi Field unless you’re a big fan of auto repair. There are plans to change that, but as of now a Mets home game entails a trip to a part of town you wouldn’t go to otherwise, exiting your car or the 7 train, and entering the stadium, with no activity in between. This is by no means a travesty—despite my eternal love for Shea Stadium, Citi Field is a really nice ballpark once you’re inside—but a visit to a city like Pittsburgh reminds you that it could be better.

PNC Park, which opened in 2001, pops up near the top of most rankings of MLB stadiums and on Saturday I saw why. A bridge, closed to vehicles on game day, crosses the Allegheny River and connects the stadium to downtown. We enjoyed live music and reasonably priced food and drink at a pre-game block party just outside the stadium, an event that occurs before every Friday and Saturday game.

We made our way to the gate before the 4:05 start and received our Josh Harrison bobbleheads. He has a strange pose—about to tap his bat on his cleat, apparently his between-pitch ritual—but who doesn’t like a bobblehead giveaway? That was the only prize we were guaranteed, but we’d leave with much more. As the Pirates came to bat in the second inning, the PA announcer informed us that it was the Denny’s Home Run Inning. Matt Harvey was on the mound and Pittsburgh had its 6-7-8 hitters up, but before you could really think about any of that the first pitch of the inning was hit for a home run, Pittsburgh had a 3-0 lead, and every fan won a coupon for a free breakfast (with the purchase of a beverage).

The fourth inning brought more giveaways. It was the Chick-fil-a double play inning, and sure enough the Pirates turned one, earning us all a free chicken sandwich. In the bottom half of the inning, Pittsburgh scored its fifth run, meaning a free coffee at Dunkin Donuts. Unfortunately for us, it was part of a four-run inning that ended the worst start of Harvey’s career.

The game started and ended with a Mets batter striking out—a theme for the series—with some rare events in between, like the 6-4-3-4 double play the Mets turned in the fifth and Ruben Tejada’s pinch hit homer in the eighth. The final was 8-2 in two hours and 41 minutes.

Part of the lack of offense for the Mets—in this game, series, and season—can be attributed to David Wright’s absence. He played the first eight games before going to the DL with a hamstring injury, and he’s remained there because of back problems. Early in his career, Wright was at third base nearly every day. From his first full season in 2005 through 2010, he played an average of 156 games, going to the disabled list just once, after getting hit in the head by a pitch and suffering a concussion. But he broke his back in 2011 and missed two months and played 112 and 134 games the past two years. His status going forward is unknown, and even though his absence has become more commonplace the past few years, it doesn’t make it any easier to accept.

Driving home on Sunday—after enjoying my scrambled eggs, bacon, and pancakes, all for the cost of an orange juice—I listened to the series finale on the radio and was reminded how broadcasters outside of New York can be huge homers. The play-by-play man called a second inning strikeout as if the Pirates had won the pennant. Later, while watching video highlights from Saturday’s game, I heard the TV commentator mocking the Mets fans’ silence after a Pirates home run. I also noticed how often the Pirates are called the Bucs or Buccos.

I highly recommend going to a game at PNC Park. And while Citi Field offers all the modern amenities you could ask for, it would be great if the surrounding area offered more than a parking lot with a good view of LaGuardia.

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