If I'm being perfectly honest with all of you, the main thing that I wanted to see the Pirates do this weekend was play better baseball than the Reds for most of the weekend. As I've been saying for a few days now, I'd love for that playoff game to be at PNC Park on Tuesday, but I also realize that the outcome of that game is much more important than where the game is located (of course, I say this as a guy in North Carolina without tickets to the wild card game on Tuesday, so take that for what it's worth).
Really, the Reds terrify me. I thought before the season that they were the most talented team in the National League and I think that that still might be true, records aside. The Pirates entered this series with an 8-8 record against the Reds, but it's only 5-8 since April. The April sweep that the Pirates of the Reds at PNC is the only series the Bucs have won against them this year (they split one at Great American in June), and in general whenever the Pirates play the Reds I, as a fan, feel like they're overmatched in a sense that I don't get against many other teams. Last weekend was the icing on that cake; the Pirates dominated play for most of Friday and all of Saturday and still managed to lose two of three in the series.
Of course, all of this stuff is in my head and is a lot of personal playoff neuroses showing through and I realize that what I think doesn't have any bearing on the team or the outcome of these games. But what i'm trying to say is: the Pirates played a wire-to-wire game tonight, where they were better than the Reds in all aspects. AJ Burnett cruised through eight innings, the defense made some nice plays and turned some double plays behind him, Pedro Alvarez hit a baseball a million feet (estimate), and even Jason Grilli came out and nailed down (well, relative term -- he struck Joey Votto out on a check swing that was very nearly a full swing, but neither the home plate nor third base umpire decided to call that a strike, Votto singled instead, and then was erased on a real nice double play started by Alvarez and turned by Walker) a save against Joey Votto, Brandon Phillips, and Jay Bruce.
And so what I'm trying to say is this: that was a nice win. The Pirates have 92 wins. If they get to 93, the playoffs will come to PNC Park next week.
Nobody will ever convince me that neither the home plate or third base umpire didn't know that Votto's checked swing didn't stop in time. The problem with calls like that and CB Buckner's out call against Christian Yellich of the Marlins the othe day are how much effect they can have on a single Wild Card game.
Thought the Jinx was on when Grilli didn't get the K and Votto reached base on a hit. Nice doubleplay from Alvarez to Walker. Glad to see our bullpen get a big save.
BTW, Walker has learned to turn the double play beautifully. Maz has been a great mentor.
Winning today would be nice and allow Sunday to be a breather. However, September has been a tough month and I fully expect this series to go to the last day. A breather would calm the nerves that have been "on high alert" the past 3 weeks. The Reds scare me too.