There’s something special going on in Pittsburgh right now.
For once, I’m not talking about our beloved Penguins, who seem to be well on their way to a series victory over a no-named but hard-working Sens roster. I’m talking about our Buccos.
The Pirates are rolling right now. At 25-17 and climbing, Clint Hurdle’s Finest are off to the best start for the Pirates since the 1992 season. You know, that 96-66 season, our most recent over .500 campaign. Ah, the good old Barry Bonds and Andy Van Slyke days.
The Bucs have won 7 of their last 8 games, taking 3 out of 4 from the Brewers, who seem to be the only kryptonite for this club. I still can’t get over the bomb that Travis Snider hit in the last game in the Brewer’s series. A 458ft bomb into the river for his first four-bagger since last August.
Last night was even more evidence of the magic that is the Pirates 2013 season. Down 4-1 in the 6th inning, McCutchen hit a routine fly ball to shallow right field only to be totally botched by 24-year-old right fielder Jimmy Paredes. Cutch ended up on third, and was brought in shortly thereafter by a Garrett Jones double. After a scoreless 7th for both squads and phenomenal inning of pitching from Tony Watson in the 8th, the Pirates were down to their last two chances at evening the score.
Who would have thought it would have happened the way it did.
With one man on in the bottom of the 8th, Pedro Alvarez hit a 462ft bomb that on hopped into the river. Had I not been watching after the bat met the ball I may still be thinking it hasn’t landed yet. I cannot recall anyone hitting a ball so pure in the 12 years the Bucs have played in arguably America’s most beautiful ballpark. 4-4 headed into the 9th.
After retiring the Astros in the top half of the inning, the Bucs loaded the bases with one out in the bottom half thanks to an inexcusable error by Edgar Gonzalez, the 2000 undrafted veteran out of Mexico. With Lunchbox on third and Cutch on first, Brandon Inge hit a dribbler back to Gonzalez, who proceeded to bobble the ball and blow a potential double play to send the game to extra innings. At the very least he should have been able to get Inge out at first, but panicked and allowed the Pirates to load the bases with one out.
Neil Walker stepped to the plate and delivered one of the most frustrating at-bats I’ve seen from him this year. Granted I am spoiled when watching the Real Deal with the bases loaded, as he is a tremendous 17-35 in his career with the bases chucked. However, there’s no excuse for taking any pitch even close to the zone with a 2-2 count and one out.
Russell Martin delivered a similarly disappointing at-bat. After taking to make the count 2-2, Root Sports panned the camera to Michael McKenry, who was visibly frustrated and disappointed by the passive at bat he was witnessing. After the count was 3-2, Martin hit a blooper to right field and I thought for sure this game was headed to extra innings.
Instead, the Triple-A Houston Astros committed another disastrous miscommunication error. Right-fielder Jimmy Paredes collided with infielder Jake Elmore that resulted in a dropped ball. Ballgame over, Pirates win 5-4.
Earlier this week, Paredes similarly crashed into an infielder, only this time it was Jose Altuve, who is one of only a handful of recognizable names on the ‘Stros. Altuve left the game with a partially dislocated jaw (how does that work?) and is slated to return to tonight’s game. When Friday night’s version of the same play happened, Bob Walk commented that he can’t help but not feel bad for this club because the Pirates were there for many years up until perhaps 2010. I couldn’t agree more (although on a personal note, I can’t help but feel for Paredes, who is currently the laughingstock of the MLB. But don’t forget that one little detail, he’s in the MLB). As someone born in 1991, I haven’t been competent enough at any point in my life to see a Pirates winning season. And there have been PLENTY of similar situations to the one that caused the Astros last night’s game. I couldn’t be happier that those days are over.
Looking forward, the Pirates have two more meetings with the Astros this weekend, followed by a 3-game series at PNC against the Cubbies before hitting the road for the Brewers. It would be LOVELY if we could finally pull out a series at Miller.
I don’t like to get ahead of myself and have always been a “one game at a time” type, but as a blogger I’m allowed to do these things. The Pirates are sitting at 25-17. I would really like to think that it’s not unrealistic to close out the Astros with 2 wins and then take 2 of 3 from the Cubs, who currently sit at 8 games under .500. If that happens, the Pirates will be sitting at 29-18.
April 1st, if someone would have asked me if 29-18 through 47 games would have been okay, I would have politely asked them one thing: “Where can I sign?”
I believe this is the year the 20+ years of misery comes to an end. And while I’m not sure we can top the Cardinals for the division, I would not at all be surprised to see us in the one-game Wildcard showdown, perhaps even with the division rival Cincinnati Reds.
There’s magic in the air at PNC this year.