There are a lot of highlights from this 2013 regular season, but some of the games that stand out from the regular season for me are the ones that I dubbed "reminder games" in my head. The reminder games were the ones where Pirates would come out and put together a complete and solid win after a bad loss or a losing streak. Those wins always felt huge, just because they were reminders of what this Pirate team is capable of vs. Pirate teams of the past couple of years.
Today's Game 2 was the ultimate example of that. After Thursday's night's Game 1 loss, I don't think that any Pirate fan wrote the NLDS off. Getting to this point of the season requires a certain amount of perspective, and while Game 1 was hard to watch and frustrating on almost every level possible, the universal reaction that I felt from that game was, "Well, it's all fine if the Pirates come out and flip things around in Game 2." The problem with the playoffs is that a statement like that comes with a different realization; if they DIDN'T turn things around this afternoon, suddenly the season would be dangerously close to ending.
Enter Gerrit Cole. At this time last year, I was writing season reviews that said things like, "Everyone that watches Gerrit Cole pitch says that has amazing stuff, but he's got this tendency to elevate and flatten his fastball in big situations and that results in his opponent teeing off on him. Look at what happened in the Future's Game and the International League playoffs as an example of this." Now, Cole is the guy that's on the mound in Game 2 of the NLDS with a 1-0 series deficit. He's the guy that shakes off a Carlos Beltran double without breaking a sweat, then steps up to the plate and knocks in a run of his own for good measure. After Beltran's double in the first inning, Cole put 11 Cardinals down in a row before Yadier Molina' sixth inning solo homer, and he made it look easy. By then, the Pirates had built a 5-0 lead on the back of Cole's RBI single, Pedro Alvarez's two-run homer, and fifth inning hits from from Justin Morneau (double), Marlon Byrd (double), and Russell Martin (single) that chased Lance Lynn from the game.
The big, lingering fear from last night for me was that after getting blown out in Game 1, that the Pirates were going to show up in Game 2, play a solid game, lose, and be on the verge of elimination within 24 hours of the first pitch of the series. Now, we can say for certain that's not going to happen. In fact, now the burden is on the Cardinals to find a way to win a game at PNC Park to keep the series going. As bad as Thursday's game was (and as nice as a win would've been), the main goal for the first two games of this series was to get a split in St. Louis, hand a 1-1 series to Francisco Liriano on Sunday, and go from there. The Pirates have done that, and in evening the series up today they proved that they're not just happy to have advanced to the division series.
Is Cole getting more rest than the rest of our pitchers? Would be something interesting to research.
Move Morneau to the six spot and bump up Byrd and Pedro and this lineup is scary.
Cole is cold blooded. He has been our best pitcher in this last month and is not showing signs of slowing down.
Tickets for the potential Game 3 of the NLCS in Pittsburgh sold out this morning in 30 minutes and Game 4 and 5 sold out 10 minutes later. We hungry.
Not including all the good things the Pirates did today (win, Cole being great, Pedro killing the ball, Morneau showing signs of life, squishing the "just happy to be here" narrative, and so forth), my favorite part was Costas one-upping every writer who has spelled McCutchen's last name incorrectly by referring to him as "Lawrence McCutchen".
I was shocked at how tame the crowd was even at the start. I understand they are no stranger to the playoffs but jeesh, have a pulse.
The Bucs played well in all phases today...offense, defense, and pitching. Was very nice to see them take advantage of the Cards sloppy play in the field. Can't wait to see how the Cards respond to 40K insane fans at PNC at Sunday! So Joe Kelly has a 1.00 ERA against us at PNC this year, well I think the 10th man might have something to say about that and it goes like this......Kelly, Kelly, Kelly!
@LastingsMilledgeville This is something I've really thought about. I think the passion for your team's manager and players really dictate how fans react in the stands. I'm sure those who watched the 1979 Pirates can attest to that. While hind sight is 20-20, I don't remember having the same attachment towards the early 1990's Pirates as I do with the 2011-2013 Pirates. I viewed the 1990's as a team that was rather cold and cocky with tons of talent but always "underachieved" in the postseason. Our best players hit under .200 in the postseason and always looked lost. Leyland was cold and cocky then and he's still an ass. Leyland always wants to go where there is loads of potential and will leave when he doesn't get his way. He would never have taken the job Hurdle did after the 2010 season (our worst in the 20 year losing streak BTW). Bonds was an ass to the media and will never be in the Hall as long as he's alive. Bonilla was an ass to the media and overrated (the Mets still owe him money BTW). Hell, we let Sid Bream go and were not completely honest with him when he really didn't want very much to stay in Pittsburgh and look where that got us. I just think we want the current 2013 "overachieving" team to win so bad that we are willing to bust our vocal cords and eardrums to help them. Was there a player with the personality of Cutch on the 1990's team? Maybe Van Slyke. If you also remember, Lind was very cocky like Brandon Philips in the field, but Lind could not hit for shit......Neil Walker is very personably and probably could show up at your house for Thanksgiving and fit right in. Those early 1990's teams remind me so much of the current Red Legs and those teams were missing two things I believe this current team has, a good manager and players with lots of heart. We could lose the next two games but that would not change the way I feel about this team. But I think we win the next two games and I envision myself at PNC on October 14, 2013 vs the Braves with Neil Walker hitting a Game Winning HR over the Clemente Wall in the Bottom of the 9th. I want to play the Braves at PNC in the Playoffs on October 14 so bad it almost hurts. Lets go Bucs!
@LastingsMilledgeville This is standard procedure stuff for StL fans and that's fine. They've been to the WS more often lately than the Buccos have had a sniff at .500 ball. I'd just as soon have them Cards fans laid back and asleep at the wheel as the big Bucco Cole Train runs right thru them if there is a game #5.
@LastingsMilledgeville St Louis had the 2nd highest attendance in all of baseball this year and always ranks high in attendance so we should not question their support to their team. In my experience, Cardinal fans are some of the most knowledgeable and respectful of the game. Steeler Crowds were much, much louder back in the early to mid 2000's prior to us winning SB XL and XLIII. They became quieter after we won SB XLIII. Just wait until the Steelers have some years of mediocrity followed by winning, the loud crowds will return. My point is the St Louis Cards Fan Base is used to winning and have a couple rings to show for it in the past 8 years so their current generation expects/demands a winner. Fan support goes in cycles. I can remember NLCS games in Pittsburgh that were not sold out in the early 1990s. Heck, it was very easy for me to get tickets for Game 2 and Game 6 of the 1992 World Series ($45 a piece). Old Fulton County Stadium used to rock with that stupid chant in the early 90's. Years of losing teams motivated those fans; however, that chant while still loud, has quieted down considerably over the years due to the expectation of winning in Atlanta.
@LastingsMilledgeville Out of curiosity I checked on Stubhub the other day before the start of the series. St Louis had tickets available for $20. Standing room only for the first game in Pittsburgh is $190. I don't expect Cardinals fans to be as excited about the division series as we are; but really, twenty dollars??
@JeffreyMccartney Perhaps "Joey, Joey, Joey..." might get under his skin even more?
Yes. The sound of Joey, Joey, Joey just might do it! Anything to create a true home field advantage.
@JeffreyMccartney Jeffrey...Thanks. I've got you by 21 years (there's that # again!) and my most glorious day in childhood was Oct. 13, 1960 as an 8yr old. A depressing day was the first time I walked into Three Rivers Stadium in the late summer of 1970. Yes, it was bright, shiny and new but where was all the character that was Forbes Field? Now, we have much of that character back plus a great deal of amenities that a fan at Forbes never would have dreamed of. Just getting that damn doughnut hole of a stadium imploded was such a great thing for my disposition. Anyhow, Beat 'em Bucs!
mwr505.....Well thought out write-up. I have to agree with you. I am 40 BTW so my true life experience with the Pirates starts in the mid 80s right after the drug trials.
@JeffreyMccartney @LastingsMilledgeville First of all, the abomination that was Three Rivers Stadium did not seat 60K. As I recall capacity was a shade above 50K for baseball. The economy in W.PA in the early 1990s was not the greatest and the stadium experience at gorgeous PNC vs how it was at the dreary doughnut hole of Three Rivers is like comparing a glorious Christmas morning to a depressingly gray day when you might have buried one of your parents. And, you reference Atlanta playoff tix sales in 1992....The Braves were just beginning to be competitive after being a doormat to mediocre team much of the two decades previous. Their fanbase was building rapidly in the early 1990s. Check the playoff tix sales for Atlanta in recent years and even this year. Yes, the capacity at Turner Field is quite a bit more than PNC but the Braves do not now regularly sell out their post-season playoff games. The Pirates were not the beloved franchise in the early 1990s that they are now. The bad years of drugs and poor play in the early to mid-80s was still tarnishing the Pirate brand and, to be honest, there were not many players on those Pirate teams managed by Leyland that were friendly, outgoing fan favorites - at least compared to the Pirates of 2013. Yes, it's wonderful that the crowd at PNC seems to be a bit younger than those that sat in the seats at Three Rivers. But, possibly the ages are very similar - it's just that this year's team makes everyone look and feel younger when they happily back a winner in maybe the loveliest MLB ballpark in all the land.
@LastingsMilledgeville @JeffreyMccartney Bigger Stadium yes. But not selling out 17 of 18 NLCS games at Three Rivers Stadium when that was the only round of the playoffs prior to the World Series (back then) says a lot about our fan support back then. The Braves sold out all their games in the 1992 NLCS by the way. St Louis averaged 41K fans over 81 games this year so I think good fan support should have been able to get us 60K in 3 games in 1992. I was at many of those games in the early 1990's and those crowds were not that loud mainly because it was a much older audience.