Once upon a time, seemingly forever ago, I sat with my dad in our regular seats on the Clemente Wall as the Pirates mounted an improbable six-run comeback to beat the Rockies in an otherwise meaningless August baseball game. When the inning began, the Pirates were down 11-6 and Brian Giles lead off the bottom of the ninth. My dad turned to me and said, “If Jason Kendall gets up, we’re going to win this game.” Kendall had made the last out in the eighth. Nine batters later, Kendall singled in Tike Redman and the Pirates had somehow won.
When the Pirates fell behind in the tenth inning tonight after Sean Gallagher gave up 2-run homer to Todd Helton and all I really thought was, “Well, the top of the order’s up next inning and the Rockies will bring Huston Street in and hey he’s right-handed if we can get Pedro Alvarez up against him, I think I like our chances.” And Andrew McCutchen doubled and even as Jose Tabata and Neil Walker made outs, Alvarez loomed. When Garrett Jones stood in against Street, working the count full and fouling pitches off it was like he had the same thought in his head: “If I get on, we can get Pedro up.” And sure enough he did.
I won’t pretend that I stood in the stands tonight and called Pedro’s walkoff homer or anything (I did say, “There’s only two ways this at-bat is ending; either he’s crushing this ball over the fence or he’s striking out,” but that’s hardly a prediction), but I did want that home run as much as I’ve wanted to see anything else in PNC Park. I didn’t want a rally-extending walk or single or a game-tying double. I wanted Pedro Alvarez to crush a ball into the night sky, to be the cornerstone we’ve hoped for since he was drafted, since that crazy midnight deadline two years ago, since all of the drama that followed his first signing. Then, he did it. He actually did it.
It’s easy to sit here on a night like tonight and say that I think this group of young Pirates will be different, that they’ll be the group that finally manages to not only cut through all of the losing but maybe to ascend to something even higher. To be honest, though, I probably would’ve said the same thing on that August night seven long years ago. I will say this, though: in the past, I’ve had to talk myself into various Pirate teams and players. IF Player X does this while Player Y does this and Player Z comes around and we find a pitcher and … well, I know you all know the drill. So far, though, this group of young players has done the talking for themselves. I’m just happy I had a chance to see it.
(This post wouldn’t be complete without a big thanks to Rob and the guys at Walkoff Walk guys for organizing a great blog-gathering and giving me and everyone a chance to put some faces to familiar names. I’m being perfectly honest when I say that this trip would’ve been worth it without the incredible final outcome tonight, though obviously I’m not complaining about the outcome either.)