Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Day 1 - Game 1 - August 4, 2015 Chicago Cubs @ Pittsburgh Pirates

Brace yourself, this is a long one. I’ve tried to throw in some pictures to break it up a bit though.

By the time this posts, it’ll have been two weeks since I headed to Pittsburgh for the first stop on my Cubs themed vacation. Avoiding tolls, the route I selected was slated to come in at just under 5 hours. With a 7:05 PM start time, we hit the road at around 11 AM to give ourselves a bit of a cushion and some time to wander around a bit.
PNC Park was a new stadium for me. I had been to Three Rivers Stadium as a kid in the ‘80s but hadn’t been back to Pittsburgh since. One of these days I’m going to have to sit down and figure out where I’ve already been because it seems I have a few defunct stadiums on my list.
When I go to a new ballpark, I like to check it out from various vantage points. My plan usually involves buying the cheapest seats, sitting there for a few innings and then wandering around to better seats once the lollygaggers are done rolling in and the ushers become less insistent about checking tickets.
I did not pre-purchase any of my tickets for this trip. Because of the tight schedule and me being the only driver, I wanted the freedom to be able to skip a city and move on to the next one should we fall behind schedule. The two MLB games were midweek (Tuesday and Thursday) and the rest were minor league games so I didn’t really fear any sellouts. I did however check Stubhub and eBay the two weeks leading up to the trip for the two MLB games on the off chance I could beat the box office with some rock bottom prices. I didn’t see any particular steals so I risked getting something at the stadiums. For this matchup, I failed to consider the impact of a division rivalry, let alone the playoff implications with the Cubs being in contention for the second wild card berth and the Pirates holding down the first spot. Not to mention the rain out from the night before. Luckily things worked out though.
After finding a reasonably priced parking garage, we headed towards the stadium. This is the view from the far side of the yellow bridge that you'll see in a later picture. The bridge is just out of the picture on the right.
PNC Park from across the river
After crossing the bridge (and even before it) you may be shocked to know there were several guys along the way offering to sell (or buy) tickets to the game. With a little bit of a line at the box office, one of the guys got my attention and I listened to his spiel. His tickets weren’t the cheapest available from the box office but they were the second cheapest. With a little negotiation, (and confirming they were tickets to that night’s game in that stadium with those teams) we settled on a price somewhere in between. I saved a couple bucks off of the face value but between taxes and a possible transaction fee at the box office, maybe I did end up with a better deal anyway.
After gaining entry to the ballpark, (yay, the tickets worked!) we hung around the centerfield gate to watch the Cubs take batting practice. Nothing really came close to us, though a few Cubs pitchers tossed some balls into the crowd.
I have no idea who this kid is but he must have been very excited to have Michael Morse join his team at the deadline. This appeared to be a photocopied Morse nameplate affixed to a Jose Tabata jersey with Scotch tape. This wouldn't be the last time on this trip I'd see such a thing but I'm not sure I took a photo of the other instance. But when I get there, I'll at least mention it.

We wandered around a bit more, taking in the stadium and looking for a place to get something to eat. In my research for the trip, I found an article ranking the MLB stadiums and among other things, the list included things to try at each stadium. PNC offered something called the Brunch Burger, which sounded simultaneously disgusting yet intriguing. Individually, I liked everything on it, but would it taste good together?
It was basically a bacon and egg cheeseburger sandwiched between a glazed doughnut bun. And don’t forget the Pirates colored sprinkles! An usher directed us to the restaurant that sold such a concoction but it was not meant to be. We were informed that it had been a special item that was no longer on the menu. Soooo….maybe all those ingredients didn’t go well together? I’m still intrigued though so I may have to whip up my own version before storing my grill away for the winter.

At this point the games kind of ran together so I don’t remember what we ended up eating at that particular game, just the disappointment in not getting the Brunch Burger. I also neglected to take any photos, but it was probably standard stadium fare.

We made our way to our seats only to discover they were already taken! Not only that, but the rest of the section was pretty crowded too. We really didn't mind though because as I mentioned, we play musical chairs at the stadium ourselves. We moved a couple of sections over on the same level, closer to home plate and sat there for a few innings. I can't complain about the "upgrade" we found.

The yellow bridge I mentioned earlier out past center field

With the zoom on the camera, I could see right into the Cubs dugout, too!

After a few innings of those seats, we also watched from the rotunda in the left field corner for a bit.
This photo was from pregame as it was starting to get dark by the time we watched from here. You can see the stadium is still filling up at this point, with empty seats on the foul side of the pole.
As I mentioned, the first game of the series, Monday night’s game had been rained out after two lengthy delays. Weather was another thing I didn’t factor into my decision making (hindsight really is 20/20!) when I first brainstormed this trip a few months ago. But on this night, we had nothing to worry about. It was sunny and hot early on but the breeze coming off the river was great. And as it cooled down a bit, we headed to the cheap seats in left centerfield to finish the game out. Those seats were pretty cool because it almost felt like we were on the field with the left fielder!
Chris Denorfia
As for the game itself, the Cubs piled on 15 hits on route to a 5-0 victory. Cubs starter Jake Arrieta allowed only 2 hits and 3 walks over 7 innings. The losing pitcher, J.A. Happ was making his Pirates debut after being acquired from the Seattle Mariners the previous Friday.
The Cubs jumped out to an early lead with three consecutive singles followed by a bases loaded walk, but Happ was able to escape to the first inning trailing only 1-0. The Cubs tacked on two more runs in the third with a pair of doubles and a single. An RBI double by Starlin Castro in the 5th inning and a single by Jorge Soler in the 6th plated the Cubs final two runs.
Every Cubs starter reached base at least once, including the pitcher, Arrieta. The downside to 15 hits, 5 walks and only 5 runs is that the Cubs stranded 15 base runners, including leaving the bases loaded twice. But overall, I couldn’t ask for a better way to start of the road trip! As bad as the bats had been prior to this trip, things were looking up.
Overall, PNC was a pretty nice ballpark. I had heard good things about it and I'd say it lived up to the hype. The weather was perfect and the views from all of our seats were gorgeous. My only knocks against it are that it is a Coke ballpark (I'm a Mountain Dew drinker, which is a Pepsi product) and I wish I could have crossed the Brunch Burger off my list. So not too bad in the grand scheme of things.
Oh well, on to South Bend!

1 comment:

  1. I love the skyline from PNC Park and walking across the Roberto Clemente bridge is one of favorites since I took on the task of visiting every MLB park.
    I'm sorry you didn't get to try the Brunch Burger. That would have been awesome, but it also may have had some hidden consequences upon consumption. . . so maybe it was better they were out?
    I'm looking forward to the rest of this series!