What happens if there’s a no-hitter and nobody’s there to cheer it?
Apparently, a very loud blast of the 1990 EMF song “Unbelievable” over a moderate amount of piped-in crowd noise.
That’s what happened after Adam Engel made a running catch of Erik Gonzalez’s line drive to right field for the final out of Lucas Giolito’s no-no on Tuesday night in Chicago. The White Sox, who have been more notable for their hitting prowess this season, moved within a game and a half of the first-place Twins in the AL Central with their 4-0 victory over the Pirates.
It was, as everything else is this year, weird to watch unfold. NBC Chicago announcers Jason Benetti and Steve Stone were excellent on the call, building the drama and delivering the right level of excitement even without a real crowd on the South Side, but the visuals and ambient noise remain ever-present reminders of the situation in baseball that’s more distracting than the setups for basketball, hockey, and auto racing.
Part of the issue is the way baseball gives you time to think while you’re watching it, and while there was some crowd noise being piped in throughout the ninth inning, a thought that crept up was how the nonexistent fans might “react” if the Pirates got a hit. Would the person in charge of volume control dial up something to resemble a standing ovation for Giolito’s effort? Gonzalez, the only man to reach base against Giolito, on a fourth-inning walk, came close to delivering an answer.
Chicago outfielder Eloy Jimenez needed attention from a trainer as he went down during the celebration, which was an even bigger, “Oh, right, it’s 2020” moment, but fortunately he was able to get up and walk off the field with a twisted ankle and will be, like all of us, day-to-day.
What about piping in fake boos? The Mets went an entire doubleheader without scoring, but gave up a run to Miami’s Jon Berti, who stole second and third, then stole home on a between-pitches throw back to the mound, even though he almost fell down on the way to the plate. That sentence could have just stopped after “The Mets,” but the devil is in the details.
Joe Maddon got ejected for arguing balls and strikes by home plate umpire Clint Vondrak, who did legitimately blow the 3-2 call on Shohei Ohtani, ringing up the slugger on a pitch that was definitely low and outside, albeit not so much that it should be worth getting tossed over in a game your team is leading by four runs.
Maddon, warned by Vondrak not to come out of the dugout to argue, came out of the dugout to argue, and did so with his mask draped around his neck, which also should get Maddon in trouble, because the only people who are supposed to uncover their faces during a game are players on the field.
At least Maddon had the decency to stay six feet away from Vondrak, one of the umpires who’s up from Triple-A this year as several arbiters opted out of the season over COVID-19 concerns, which, yeah, you can see how getting yelled at by some guy not wearing a mask three weeks after he said, “We’re becoming more used to it every day and gosh, we’re going to probably wear masks for the next 15, 20 years. So I want to believe that if we could stay with what we’re supposed to do, that we can get through this as an industry.”
Jamal Murray hit a 360 layup as part of a 42-point effort (following his 50 in Denver’s Game 4 loss) that kept the Nuggets in the NBA bubble with a 117-107 win over the Jazz in Game 5 of their series. Smart play to spin like that and avoid any respiratory droplets from Rudy Gobert, especially now that we know coronavirus reinfection is possible.
Remember the Sega move on the EA Sports NHL games where you’d skate around the net, drawing the goalie to one side, and then pass back across the crease to a wide-open teammate for an easy goal?
The Vancouver Canucks do, and now their Western Conference semifinal with the Vegas Golden Knights is tied at a game apiece.