Cincinnati Reds manager Dusty Baker (12) talks with starting pitcher Johnny Cueto on the mound in the fourth inning of the NL wild-card playoff baseball game against the Pittsburgh Pirates on Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2013, in Pittsburgh. (AP Photo/Don Wright)
Last Tuesday evening before the Pirates beat the “bejeezus” out of the Cincy Reds to advance to the NLDS; I was sitting in the press box after the game had concluded trying to find the words to put down on paper that would make sense to all who dared pick up a New Pittsburgh Courier and read my thoughts. I was continuing to try to make sense of how the Pirates disposed of the Reds and as a result sent Cincy manager Dusty Baker to the unemployment line. However, I am reasonably certain that none of us will see Monsieur Baker in the express line at Giant Eagle swiping his EBT food stamp card.
After that “”momentous” victory the Pirates arrived in St. Louis only to be spanked by the “Cards” in game one of the NLDS. A.J. Burnett the Pirates losing pitcher in game one had this to say about the loss. “The curveball was not even in effect today. When I don’t have that, they can just sit on one pitch.” Well that, my friends, is a vast understatement because only 38 of Burnett’s 72 pitches were strikes. In the third inning he threw a whopping 37 pitches and allowed seven runs before the Pirates recorded their first out, 37 pitches!
He also walked three and hit another. Burnett pointed out that. “It’s tough, you obviously want to come out and put your foot down. That wasn’t the case today. It’s the game, I guess. The only thing I can say is that I prepared and do what I can every day and give it all I can. It just wasn’t enough, but the sun comes up tomorrow, and I do my work and do what I can in case I do get that ball again.” Hey listen guys and dolls, two of the hits allowed by Burnett went for extra bases, including Carlos Beltran’s three-run homer.
Well if Pittsburgh falls tonight in their deciding game of the NLDS against the Cardinals, the sun will not be coming up again for Pirates at least as far as the 2013 season is concerned. Hold your horses. After the drubbing that Pittsburgh received, they avenged the game one loss in game two by shuffling the St. Louis “Cards” like a slick Las Vegas blackjack dealer. Pirates rookie pitching phenom Gerrit Cole pulled the series even beating the Cardinals 7-1 sort of putting to bed a few of the tear stained no more “Jolly Roger” theories. The Pirates young rookie was unflappable and unstoppable. Pirates catcher Russell Martin had high praise for his young battery mate. “He didn’t really look nervous at all. If I had an arm like his, I wouldn’t be nervous either.”
When the Pirates returned to PNC Park on Sunday with the series tied 1-1, that ray of hope really gave the Pittsburgh fanatics something to really scream and yell about. By the way, if you think the crowd was electric on Tuesday for the wildcard winner take all game well I will put it this way the crowd was absolutely “nuclear” for game three of the series on Sunday which was a seesaw affair with the clutch hit being a single to left field by Pirates budding superstar Pedro Alvarez and also leaving the cocky, confident, Cardinals staring off of the cliff without a parachute.
Game 4 was a pitching duel between Cards rookie Michael Wacha and the Pirates Charlie Morton. The young Cardinals pitcher provided the parachute that the Cardinals needed to force a game 5 and land safely on their feet back in St. Louis. In my opinion after Morton got out of a fifth inning jam in game 4 Pirates manager Clint Hurdle should have used his Apollo theatre-like hook and removed Morton immediately. He was falling behind on the hitters and his pitch location was really beginning to become suspect. There can be no loyalty in the business of professional sports just ask former Pirate players Ian Snell, James McDonald, Jason Bey or Freddie Sanchez.
There is a rejuvenation of the baseball culture, not baseball game but baseball culture going on in Pittsburgh. With the spirit of youth prevailing and as long as ownership does not put a chastity belt on the old pocketbook the Pirates have enough talent to be a force in the National League Central Division for a long time.
Although Pirates NL MVP candidate centerfielder Andrew McCutchen has proven his weight in gold will the Pirates management exhibit “good faith” money in the near future if the Pirates falter against the St. Louis Cardinals tonight, Oct. 9, in the quest to advance to the NLCS?
Will outfielder Marlon Byrd be patrolling right field by the Allegheny river at PNC Park or will his stint in Pittsburgh during the 2013 postseason represent just another Pirate auditioning to advance to greener pastures and clearer waters?
The Pirates are going to have to get all of the help they can get if they are to advance to the NLCS to play the Los Angeles Dodgers who by the way have just sent the Atlanta Braves packing and have already smoked the Pirates and the Cardinals during the 2013 regular season.
It seems like one of the principal partners of the Dodgers management group former NBA/Los Angeles Lakers basketball great Earvin “Magic” Johnson does not mind reaching down into those “deep” pockets of his and spending some serious “rubles” making sure that serious on field talent is acquired and maintained. It seems as if the current Pirates management team seems to be evolving toward “normal” fiscal policies. If the Pittsburgh Pirates are fortunate enough to advance to the NLCS tonight then the “ghost of sleepy holler” might just abandon the Pirates place in the basement.
(Aubrey Bruce can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-583-6741.)
YOUNG STARS—Andrew McCutchen slides in safe as Pedro Alvarez wait to bat. These are the two of the many young stars on the Pirates this year. (AP Photo)
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