The Times West Virginian

September 28, 2012

Bucs lose, waste Snider’s gem


Associated Press

NEW YORK — Travis Snider went back to the right-field wall, dug his spikes into the chain-link fence, and hooked his left arm on top of the 8-foot wall.

Then the 6-foot outfielder hoisted himself up and grabbed Mike Baxter’s drive in the webbing of the glove on his right hand, maybe a good 4 feet or more above the wall, preserving a one-run lead.

Just call him Snider-Man.

“I was blessed to grow up in Seattle, and I watched Ken Griffey Jr. do that on a regular basis,” Snider said. “I remember being a kid and dreaming of doing that. Any time we got on the field in the Kingdome, that’s all we wanted to do, climb the wall.”

Snider’s web gem was clearly among the best defensive plays in the majors this season. Yet it wasn’t enough for the Pittsburgh Pirates, who lost to the New York Mets 6-5 Thursday as R.A. Dickey won his 20th game.

Pittsburgh, which led the NL Central at the All-Star break, lost for the 20th time in 26 games and dropped to 76-80. The Pirates must win five of their last six games — against Cincinnati and Atlanta — to avoid their 20th consecutive losing season. Pittsburgh’s streak of futility already is a record for North American major professional leagues.

Making it worse, NL batting leader Andrew McCutchen left the game in the seventh inning after bruising his left knee in a failed attempt to make a diving catch on a soft fly into short center by Daniel Murphy. He’ll be re-evaluated Friday.

“It’s all right. It’s not broken or anything,” McCutchen said. “It’ll be fine. I’m ready to go.”

McCutchen was 0 for 4 with two strikeouts, dropping his average to .332 and falling one point behind San Francisco’s Buster Posey (.333) for the NL batting title.

If not for Dickey’s win, Snider’s grab would have been the big topic. When the second-inning drive off Kevin Correia (11-11) left the bat, it appeared the score would be tied at 2.

“Incredible. Absolutely incredible,” Baxter said. “I don’t know how he did it. It was one of the best I’ve even seen. I thought it was gone, for sure. I didn’t even think twice.”

Then he stood on the top step of the dugout and watched the replay on the video board.

“Oh my God. The guy just kept elevating,” Baxter said.

Pittsburgh was astounded, too.

“It’s as good a play as you’ll ever want to see an outfielder make,” manager Clint Hurdle said.

For the 24-year-old Snider, the snare rekindled memories.

“It kind of brought me back to my childhood a little bit,” he said, “lots of hours with my old man hitting fly balls in the front yard. It kind of brings you back to being a kid.”

Pittsburgh had taken a 2-0 lead in the second when Rod Barajas hit an opposite-field RBI double that hopped the right-field wall, and Jordy Mercer following with a run-scoring infield single.

Ike Davis led off the bottom half with his 31st homer, but Barajas boosted the lead to 3-1 when he homered on an 0-2 pitch in the fourth, a drive over the old 16-foot wall in left.

Kevin Correia (11-11) gave up Scott Hairston’s RBI single in the fourth and Daniel Murphy’s tying single in the fifth before David Wright hit an opposite-field drive to right for his 21st home run this season and a 6-3 lead.

Dickey allowed three runs and eight hits in 7 2-3 innings, walking two and tying his career high of 13 strikeouts.

Jon Rauch, pitching on his 34th birthday, followed Dickey and allowed Alex Presley’s two-run homer in the ninth. Bobby Parnell retired speedy Josh Harrison on a groundout to shortstop Ruben Tejada in the hole, and Jose Tabata on a flyout for his fifth save

Snider was not planning to watch more replays of his catch later Thursday night.

“I actually have a big Washington Huskies game with Stanford,” he said.