Yesterday afternoon, I got an e-mail from my dad. It read, in part:
It's 5-19-09, and what are the Bucs, 17-21? A year ago on this date the Bucs were 21-23. And yet, why does it seem that I and many others feel like this year's version is better than last year's version? Optical illusion? Did we drink the Kool-Aid? Have we been snowed?
I thought about that a bit, and though I agree with the sentiment that these Pirates are better than last year's, I was unable to adequately verbalize a reason and actually, I still haven't responded (though I suppose this post counts). I just have a feeling that this team is different. I don't think they're a playoff team or a .500 team, but I do think they're different, if that makes sense. They're not necessarily good, but for the first time in a long time, I feel like maybe they're at least headed in the direction of something good.
This win is a perfect example. It had all the debilitating hallmarks of a bad Pirate loss. Early lead? Check. Complete offensive disappearance? Check. Late comeback by the terrible opponent? Check. Inevitable feeling of doom while the other team rallied in the bottom of the ninth? Check. And then somehow, Tom Gorzelanny, suddenly recast as a reliever, came it and got a huge strikeout of Willie Harris to end the Nats' rally in the ninth. And sure, it was just Willie Harris, but did anyone see them getting out of that jam? And after that big strikeout, the offense that had been completely dormant (as in no hits and only one base runner) since Andy LaRoche's home run in the third inning suddenly came alive for three runs in the top of the tenth. And sure, it was just the Nationals bullpen, but who saw that rally coming?
This is what occaissionaly drives me insane about baseball. This game was one that, empirically, the Pirates should've won easily, especially after the 5-0 lead in the third inning. And then they blew that easy win to smithereens, deserved to lose the game, managed to not lose only because the Nationals are terrible, scored the winning runs against an awful bullpen, and here I am feeling like the accomplished something with this win. My rational and objective brain is screaming, "It's just the Nationals! None of this means anything because they're so awful!" and my subjective Pirate fan heart that wants to believe in anything at all is yelling back, "No hits for six innings! Nats had the winning run on third base in the ninth! We still scraped out a win!" Who knew being a Pirate fan could be so complicated?