For the first 25 minutes or so if this game, I'm not sure I exhaled once. Francisco Liriano needed 22 pitches to get through the first inning, and it seemed like his control was just a little bit off. In the bottom of the inning, Jose Tabata singled and Neil Walker followed that with a double, taking advantage of a poor decision by Matt Holliday to try and throw Tabata out at third. The next few minutes were nerve-wracking. Andrew McCutchen fouled off three straight pitches before striking out on the seventh pitch of his at-bat. Pedro Alvarez was promptly hit by Shelby Miller's first pitch to him to load the bases up. Marlon Byrd had a seven-pitch strikeout of his own, fouling off a few more pitches before ultimately succumbing.
Individual moments of single baseball games seem to get magnified way out of proportion given their importance to the long season, but when Garrett Jones stepped up to the plate with the bases loaded and two out in the first inning, it sure felt like there was a whole lot riding on the at-bat. The Pirates have put runners on base early in games and failed to score several times over the last few weeks, and it seems like those games inevitably end poorly for the Bucs. With the unsteady first inning from Liriano, it felt like the Pirates could be teetering on the edge of the same sort of frustrating game.
And then Garrett Jones laced a double into right field, Tabata and Walker scored, and I finally exhaled. From that point on, everything was downhil. Liriano settled in and buzzed through the Cardinals the same way that he has all year. Tonight, his final line was eight innings, six strikeouts, two walks, two hits, no runs allowed, and only 95 pitches. He probably would've been allowed to finish the shutout if Mark Melancon had pitched more recently than last Friday. Garrett Jones added in a home run and an RBI single, and Russell Martin followed Jones's solo homer with one of his own in the fourth inning. Francisco Liriano even drew two walks and got within 90 feet of scoring the first run of his career.
For the third time in a month, I feel like I'm writing the same thing about a Francisco Liriano start against the Cardinals: this was EXACTLY what the Pirates needed. They've been stuck in neutral for a few weeks now and every time it seems like they're about to kick out of it, they slide back a little. Getting a clean and easy win in the first game of this series takes a lot of pressure off of the Pirates. The division race will continue beyond this series now, now matter what happens in the last two games. The aura of invincibility they've had against the Cardinals all year is back. And they're back in a first place tie with the Cardinals after falling out of first place last week. That's certainly not something we've seen the Pirates do this late in the season before.
Just to counteract the Chicken Littles that comment after a loss, I'll just go ahead and say the Bucs are winning the division. :-)
There's a part of me that wants me to go back to my pessimistic feelings toward the Pirates, like I did after last night, but...I've lately been reminding myself that the future is not set in stone, which has helped a lot. It also helped to see that the Pirates still have the Cards' number, of course. Fingers crossed that they can keep this up!
@DouggieB The one thing that really bothers me about the negative posts following a loss are people telling me how I should feel as a Pirates fan. The direct way, telling people not to get their hopes up (as if missing the playoffs is a foregone conclusion somehow). The more indirect statements, like the Pirates are worse than the Diamondbacks and the Pirates are going to get swept by the Rangers, which is just extreme pessimism presented as incontrovertible facts. It just annoys people and ends any possibility of a real discussion.
So, glad to see the change of heart. I hope you'll find that enjoying the wins (78 of them before the end of August!) is a lot more fun than anticipating the losses.
@DouggieBThe about-face here is unbelievable. If you're going to naysay up and down these boards you can't jump on the positivity bandwagon after one good win. How are your negative arguments valid if you just change sides depending on the outcome of that night's game?
The truth is you're not a pessimist, you're a troll. Here is what you wrote the other night (after a loss), when the Bucs were 4 wins away of securing a .500+ record with 31 games remaining:
"I don't even care if they make the wild card or not. I just think, Please god...let them finish above .500 this year. Please? "
Really? You didn't think they were capable of going 4-27 the rest of the way out? It may seem harsh and exclusionary when other commenters accuse you of not being a fan. But it's actually true. How could you have watched the Pirates this season and made a comment like that? Simply being aware of their record should have ruled out the possibility of a losing season. You're a joke.
@StyvesKlein Oh I see. If I come on here and "troll" then I have to be consistent about it. I can't be a human being, who may suffer primal doubts from time to time, and get a little dramatic about it.
Yes, you are being harsh and exclusionary by making comments like that, and you're turning off other Pirates fans who might come to their senses and realize the future isn't set in stone. You're accusing ME of trolling? Pot, meet kettle.
@StyvesKlein For once I agree with you. I'm tired of wasting a good day off work with this arguing
Where you are on the spectrum has nothing to do with this. Nothing. This has gotten out of hand. Maybe locking comments on this thread would be best.
@StyvesKlein I have been in therapy, smartass! I have Asperger's, and yes, it's been diagnosed. You're basically attacking a person who does indeed have a few issues. I hope you feel just fucking great about that, just like all the other meatheads who pushed me around and beat me up since I can remember. If I feel attacked, I'm gonna respond in kind, and I feel pretty fucking attacked right now.
If I get banned from this site for this, fine. I don't need this headache!
I don't even know what to say to this. What you're looking for is therapy, buddy, not a baseball blog intended for SUBSTANTIVE discussion of baseball, not to assuage your preening apprehensions. Maybe try the Yahoo! comments section?
You want to know why I came here? I've been lurking around here, reading all the posts, and i was under a lot of anxiety as a Pirates fan, and I was looking for someone to set me straight on my fears as I vented. And now I'm being accused of trolling because I was looking for someone to show me just how dumb my fears were.
I know that might sound stupid to a "real" fan like you, but it's the truth. I have endured this as a Pirate fan since I was 12 years old, and I can't help but be a little bit pessimistic.
So I have to be a "real" fan by not expressing any concerns, and by keeping my nose up Bob Nutting and Clint Hurdle's collective asses without showing even the slightest hint of a dissenting opinion. Fine, then I'll just have to stop posting here so that you "real" fans like you can keep living in your little bubble.
Fuck you, and fuck so-called "real" fans, who can't take even the slightest bit of negativity. I AM a fan of this team, and all your name-calling isn't going to change that. Try being a fan of this team in Upstate NY, where everyone is a Yankees fan, and see how well that goes over.
Fuck you, and fuck your definition of what a real fan is!
@DouggieB@StyvesKleinYou don't seem to understand what trolling is. You insinuated the Pirates weren't incapable of winning 4 games out of 31 when they had a season win pct approaching .600 and were in the thick of a pennant race. You trolled these boards for a week while the team was on a slide, everyone else on these boards disparaged your asinine and wildly off-base arguments, then after ONE dominant performance over a team and pitcher the Bucs have owned this year you basically issue a mean culpa and disown all that. Sit down, man.
Some very smart baseball fans read this blog, and the roundly negative response ALL of your comments have gotten should be indicative of their merit. With a month to go, the Bucs have filled the RF and 1B holes and are in the dead even with the greatest franchise in baseball in a pennant race. No one has time for your contrarian crap.