When thinking about posts I wanted to have written for Game 5 today, I thought about doing a "historical perspective" post like I did before the Pirates/Reds game last Tuesday, but — and this is partially because the Pirates missed out on the playoffs for the entire "One Wildcard" era — the Pirates' have only played one decisive Game 5 in their history, and that's the Bob Moose Game.
Instead of looking back, let's take a moment to look around and look forward. One of the reasons that these elimination games make me so nervous is that the entire season gets defined by them, both for better and for worse. Most likely, you can give me at least one detail from each of the last six Game 5/7s the Pirates have played (in chronological order: Mazeroski, Clemente's big homer, the Bob Moose Game, Stargell's big homer, dominated by Smoltz, and that game), even if you weren't alive for half of them. No one's going to forget "Cueeeeeeeeeto! Cueeeeeeeeeeto!" any time soon, either.
What happens with these big moments is that you start to group them; the two Orioles' World Series bookend the '70s and the Bob Moose moment still stings fans that remember it so much because of the way that the Pirates and Reds played almost every single year in the playoffs in the '70s. Same goes for that game in 1992; obviously it would've been painful either way, but having it come against the same Braves team that knocked the Pirates out of the playoffs the year before made it even worse.
It's really been impossible to get outside of the moment in this series for me, as a Pirate fan. When AJ Burnett was imploding in Game 1 while Clint Hurdle fiddled, there was a logical part of my brain saying, "Well, this is probably fine with Cole and Liriano starting the next two," and there was another part yelling, "WIN EVERY GAME AS YOU PLAY IT!" Games 3 and 4 have been crazy, all-consuming playoff nailbiters. And still, every once in a while, I look at the players on the field making a difference in these games, and I think to myself, "This is the first Pirates/Cardinals playoff series, but I bet it's not the last." Both teams are largely driven by young cores, both teams have good, deep farm systems, and it's not hard to imagine this matchup playing out again one more or more times in the immediate future.
Of course, that all matters as much today as the Pirates' history in elimination games does. Eventually we'll think of this game as somehow part of a larger picture, but that's for later. Today, all that really matters is that as amazing as this season has been for the Pirates, it's in danger of ending. The past is irrelevant and the future is uncertain. This game tonight is what matters; it's what every exciting win and agonizing loss in 2013 depends on. When we, as Pirate fans, think of 2013, I can guarantee you that regardless of the outcome, this night is one of the games we're going to think about.