PITTSBURGH -- Baseball has a tendency to get weird, especially when the outcome is a foregone conclusion and a few hundred fans are left in the stadium with the clock nearing midnight after a rain delay.
Trailing by six runs with their bullpen already gassed, the Pirates turned to right fielder Travis Snider to pitch the ninth inning of Wednesday night's 11-4 loss to the Reds. A position player taking the mound in a blowout isn't all that much of an oddity, but couple it with a relief pitcher in the batter's box and you've got a quirky concoction straight out of baseball's twilight zone.
Reds reliever J.J. Hoover entered the game in the seventh after the one-hour, 15-minute rain delay, and in an effort to save other arms, manager Bryan Price tasked Hoover with finishing the game. The pitcher's spot was due up third in the ninth against Snider, and in his first Major League plate appearance, Hoover drew a six-pitch walk.
"I know that over the course of my years in this game, I've seen a lot of things," Price said. "But seeing Hoover get his first Major League at-bat against an outfielder ... I can't remember seeing anything remotely close to that."
Hoover, who was 0-for-17 with 14 strikeouts in the Minor Leagues, reached base for the first time in his professional career. A native of Elizabeth, Pa., a town just south of Pittsburgh on the Monongahela River, Hoover had some friends and family at the game who stuck around and were loudly chanting, "J.J.!" during his plate appearance. And though he didn't make contact, his first Major League plate appearance was a memorable one.
"I was still late on 84 [mph], I couldn't imagine someone throwing 95," Hoover joked.
Hoover's offensive adventure was not over at first base, as the next batter, Billy Hamilton, grounded a double to left field. With possibly the Majors' fastest player behind him, Hoover (6-foot-3, 230 pounds) went from first to third in a sprint that featured a moment of hesitation that his teammates aren't going to let him forget about anytime soon.
"They've been joking around with me about going first to third," said Hoover, who is the proud owner of a career 1.000 on-base percentage. "I kind of stuttered at second, because I saw the ball on the ground, and decided to take third. It was a lot of fun."
Hoover ended up scoring on the next play, a Todd Frazier single.
After Hoover crossed the plate, the inning took another turn for the bizarre, as Snider struck out four-time All-Star and 2010 National League Most Valuable Player Award winner Joey Votto. Somehow, it seemed like an appropriate ending, and one that only baseball could provide.
Stephen Pianovich is an associate reporter for MLB.com. Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.