[Baseball] breaks your heart. It is designed to break your heart. The game begins in the spring, when everything else begins again, and it blossoms in the summer, filling the afternoons and evenings, and then as soon as the chill rains come, it stops and leaves you to face the fall all alone. You count on it, rely on it to buffer the passage of time, to keep the memory of sunshine and high skies alive, and then just when the days are all twilight, when you need it most, it stops.
A. Bartlett Giamatti, Take Time For Paradise: Americans And Their Games
Can the Black Out Be Duplicated?
October 1st, 2013 is the day that will live on in the memories of Pittsburgh baseball fans for generations to come. It was the night that baseball was reborn in the city of Pittsburgh. 20 years of frustration, futility and bad baseball disappeared into the warm October night like the Cueto gopher ball Russell Martin sent into a sea of black in the left field seats of PNC Park. By the time the Pirates had dispatched of the Reds, the atmosphere at PNC Park had already become folklore.
Minutes after the game, Pirates’ manager Clint Hurdle had this to say: "If our city ever thinks they don’t make a difference, all they got to do is watch the tape from tonight’s game. We felt confident going in. They pushed it forward even more from start to finish of that game. Very special evening personally. Obviously for everybody involved and tied to this."

The NY Times did a masterful piece that ran on Christmas Day last year entitled: “The Night Pittsburgh Became a Baseball Town Once Again”. My favorite quote in the piece written by Tyler Kepner was this: "Those in the crowd wore black to match the players’ jerseys, and the dark sky made it seem like the last night of October, not the first. The fans could not simply watch this game. They became part of it."
So now the question remains, Can this be duplicated? Or even do we want to even try? My answer to both questions are yes and hell yes! The closer we get to game time the more you can feel the energy. By tomorrow afternoon it will be at a fever pitch, not only do the players have an expectation to meet, so will the paying customers in the stands. 

Can the Black Out Be Duplicated?

October 1st, 2013 is the day that will live on in the memories of Pittsburgh baseball fans for generations to come. It was the night that baseball was reborn in the city of Pittsburgh. 20 years of frustration, futility and bad baseball disappeared into the warm October night like the Cueto gopher ball Russell Martin sent into a sea of black in the left field seats of PNC Park. By the time the Pirates had dispatched of the Reds, the atmosphere at PNC Park had already become folklore.

Minutes after the game, Pirates’ manager Clint Hurdle had this to say: "If our city ever thinks they don’t make a difference, all they got to do is watch the tape from tonight’s game. We felt confident going in. They pushed it forward even more from start to finish of that game. Very special evening personally. Obviously for everybody involved and tied to this."

The NY Times did a masterful piece that ran on Christmas Day last year entitled: “The Night Pittsburgh Became a Baseball Town Once Again”. My favorite quote in the piece written by Tyler Kepner was this: "Those in the crowd wore black to match the players’ jerseys, and the dark sky made it seem like the last night of October, not the first. The fans could not simply watch this game. They became part of it."

So now the question remains, Can this be duplicated? Or even do we want to even try? My answer to both questions are yes and hell yes! The closer we get to game time the more you can feel the energy. By tomorrow afternoon it will be at a fever pitch, not only do the players have an expectation to meet, so will the paying customers in the stands. 

Key Questions Leading Up To Wednesday’s NL Wildcard Game…

After a spirited and valiant attempt to snatch the NL Central crown from the Redbirds, the Pirates must now prepare for a one-game playoff vs. the Giants at PNC Park. I expect a very raucous scene at the Masterpiece on the Allegheny, another Blackout. As a matter of fact, #PNCBlackout has been trending on Twitter for hours.

You can bet the Giants will be ready to play Wednesday as evidenced by Hunter Pence’s rah-rah speech to the fans as a formal sendoff before they head to Pittsburgh. Here are some key questions to ponder over the next couple of days, as we gear up for another night of playoff baseball in Pittsburgh.

  • How healthy will Russell Martin be? Let’s hope nearly week off won’t affect his timing at the plate, but will provide enough rest to keep that hamstring loose. I can’t imagine the Bucs making a serious run without Super Russ at the helm. 
  • Can the Pirates keep the crowd in the game early? The Pirates have to jump on the Giants early and keep the crowd in the game. While of course the players determined what happens, I have to imagine that rabid PNC Park crowd provides some kind boost for the home team.
  • Can the Lumber Company make an appearance? After bringing out the lumber in mid-September, the Pirates offense has been pretty pedestrian over the last 10 games. They’ll want to avoid a 2-1 or 1-0 game if they can help it.
  • What lineup will Hurdle counter the lefty for SF with? I imagine Snider will get the nod in RF and Gaby Sanchez at 1B. It will also be interesting to see the order with Walker probably moving down in the order while batting righty. Does Mercer or Snider bat second? Who bats cleanup?
  • Does Eddie V have at least one more commanding start in him? Edinson Volquez has statistically been the 2nd best pitcher in the NL since mid-summer. If he keep the momentum going, he may pitch his team into the NLDS. 

It should be a fun time Wednesday, I will be following all news from the team over the 2 days as the MLB playoffs prepare to get underway.

Taking Care of Business…
It’s the middle of September and the Pittsburgh Pirates are taking care of business. Since getting swept in St. Louis the Buccos are 12-2. They are 19-8 since that dreaded 7-game losing streak in August that almost ended their season prematurely. Two of the team’s 3 sweeps have occurred on this run, by the best baseball they have played all season. 
The Bucs are averaging 5.3 runs a game during this stretch, prompting comparisons to the famed Lumber Company of the 1970s. Bucs Dugout posted some great stats Wednesday Night including SABRmetrics on how this team is the 3rd most productive offense in team history (behind 1979 and 1909). Bob Smizik of the Post-Gazette has a few excellent nuggets this morning considering, including: 
The bullpen’s September ERA: 1.19 
The starting rotation’s September ERA (2.42), WHIP (1.12), BAA (.210), OPS-against (.603), K/9 (9.97) and save percentage (100). The Pirates are first in the NL in each category.
The team’s constant improvement of batting lines over the course of the season:
First half: .256/.331/.366 — .720.
Second half: .270/.332/.436 — .768.
September: .294/.352/.478 — .830.

This weekend, the Pirates have an opportunity to take care of even more business. If they do, they may even win the Central or host a wildcard game. Either way the Bucs will have to keep winning just to keep the Brewers from taking care of their business.

Taking Care of Business…

It’s the middle of September and the Pittsburgh Pirates are taking care of business. Since getting swept in St. Louis the Buccos are 12-2. They are 19-8 since that dreaded 7-game losing streak in August that almost ended their season prematurely. Two of the team’s 3 sweeps have occurred on this run, by the best baseball they have played all season. 

The Bucs are averaging 5.3 runs a game during this stretch, prompting comparisons to the famed Lumber Company of the 1970s. Bucs Dugout posted some great stats Wednesday Night including SABRmetrics on how this team is the 3rd most productive offense in team history (behind 1979 and 1909). Bob Smizik of the Post-Gazette has a few excellent nuggets this morning considering, including: 

The bullpen’s September ERA: 1.19 

The starting rotation’s September ERA (2.42), WHIP (1.12), BAA (.210), OPS-against (.603), K/9 (9.97) and save percentage (100). The Pirates are first in the NL in each category.

The team’s constant improvement of batting lines over the course of the season:

First half: .256/.331/.366 — .720.

Second half: .270/.332/.436 — .768.

September: .294/.352/.478 — .830.

This weekend, the Pirates have an opportunity to take care of even more business. If they do, they may even win the Central or host a wildcard game. Either way the Bucs will have to keep winning just to keep the Brewers from taking care of their business.

Surging Pirates Hit A Speed Bump in South Philly, Lose 4-3
"I’ve come to the conclusion that the two most important things in life are good friends and a good bullpen." - Hall of Fame Pitcher Bob Lemon
Another night, another one-run game the Bucs end up on the wrong side and you can’t help but feel like last night’s affair was another win (along with about 15 others throughout the season) that got away.  The good people over at Bucs Dugout have some great overviews of last night’s events at Citizens Bank Park. Check it out here & here.
Once again, the Pirates get owned by unlikely heroes, this time it took the form of Maikel Franco (3B), Freddy Galvis (SS) & David Buchanan (P). They came into the game hitting .133, .085 & .034 respectively, but went a combined 6 for 8 at the plate last night, with 2 doubles, a home run and 13 total bases between them. 
A number of key miscues turned into runs for the Phillies or halted potential rallies for the Pirates. In the bottom of the first inning Neil Walker lost a pop out in the lights. In the top of the second inning Russell Martin got thrown out at 2nd base trying to turn a single into a double. 
The Pirates had baserunners in the 5th, 7th and 9th innings and went an abysmal 1 for 8 with runners in scoring position. To add insult to injury, Starling Marte (who’s red hot by the way) had a home run call reversed into a ground rule double (didn’t clear wall but fan interfered preventing ricochet that may have resulted in a triple) in the 5th and was left stranded. Gregory Polanco made all the way the 3rd base in the top of the 9th but ended up being the 10th and final Pirate left on base for the game. Manager Clint Hurdle said post-game: “We had 3 different inning where a base hit would have played well for us. We didn’t get it.”
The best news of the night was that the Braves and Brewers lost as well keeping the Pirates 1.5 games up in the standings with 18 games to go. In other news, Charlie Morton’s hip is bothering him and his role down the stretch is unclear at this juncture and Edinson Volquez was quite miffed about being taken out after 6 innings of work. He was quoted as saying “Only 90 pitches…I was ready to go. I threw 82 in my last one. I threw 90 today. I was more than ready to go.” The Trib has also has a solid piece on the game and a frustrated Eddie V.
I know I lead this with a quote from Bob Lemon about bullpens, and they had their share in the loss with Justin Wilson giving up the winning run in the top in the 7th inning. While the frustration with the bullpen is clear and present, I wanted to unwrap other elements of the game that may have been overlooked due to the vitriol that exists for the bullpen right about now. Don’t get it twisted thought this bullpen have been increasing the heart rate of the Bucco faithful all season with no end in sight. Here’s to hoping something comes over this bullpen soon and gets them more consistent. In addition to that, let’s hope this was just a road bump on the way to the wildcard and the Braves and Brewers continue to fade. These last 18 games will be interesting…

Surging Pirates Hit A Speed Bump in South Philly, Lose 4-3

"I’ve come to the conclusion that the two most important things in life are good friends and a good bullpen." - Hall of Fame Pitcher Bob Lemon

Another night, another one-run game the Bucs end up on the wrong side and you can’t help but feel like last night’s affair was another win (along with about 15 others throughout the season) that got away.  The good people over at Bucs Dugout have some great overviews of last night’s events at Citizens Bank Park. Check it out here & here.

Once again, the Pirates get owned by unlikely heroes, this time it took the form of Maikel Franco (3B), Freddy Galvis (SS) & David Buchanan (P). They came into the game hitting .133, .085 & .034 respectively, but went a combined 6 for 8 at the plate last night, with 2 doubles, a home run and 13 total bases between them. 

A number of key miscues turned into runs for the Phillies or halted potential rallies for the Pirates. In the bottom of the first inning Neil Walker lost a pop out in the lights. In the top of the second inning Russell Martin got thrown out at 2nd base trying to turn a single into a double. 

The Pirates had baserunners in the 5th, 7th and 9th innings and went an abysmal 1 for 8 with runners in scoring position. To add insult to injury, Starling Marte (who’s red hot by the way) had a home run call reversed into a ground rule double (didn’t clear wall but fan interfered preventing ricochet that may have resulted in a triple) in the 5th and was left stranded. Gregory Polanco made all the way the 3rd base in the top of the 9th but ended up being the 10th and final Pirate left on base for the game. Manager Clint Hurdle said post-game: “We had 3 different inning where a base hit would have played well for us. We didn’t get it.”

The best news of the night was that the Braves and Brewers lost as well keeping the Pirates 1.5 games up in the standings with 18 games to go. In other news, Charlie Morton’s hip is bothering him and his role down the stretch is unclear at this juncture and Edinson Volquez was quite miffed about being taken out after 6 innings of work. He was quoted as saying “Only 90 pitches…I was ready to go. I threw 82 in my last one. I threw 90 today. I was more than ready to go.” The Trib has also has a solid piece on the game and a frustrated Eddie V.

I know I lead this with a quote from Bob Lemon about bullpens, and they had their share in the loss with Justin Wilson giving up the winning run in the top in the 7th inning. While the frustration with the bullpen is clear and present, I wanted to unwrap other elements of the game that may have been overlooked due to the vitriol that exists for the bullpen right about now. Don’t get it twisted thought this bullpen have been increasing the heart rate of the Bucco faithful all season with no end in sight. Here’s to hoping something comes over this bullpen soon and gets them more consistent. In addition to that, let’s hope this was just a road bump on the way to the wildcard and the Braves and Brewers continue to fade. These last 18 games will be interesting…

The Dock Abides…
Today is a day that will live long in my memory of great days in  Pirates’ history. The Bucs won a 1.3 header and I finally got to see the long awaited and highly anticipated film: “No No: A dockumentary" on the life and times of famed Pirate pitcher Dock Ellis. 
In my humble opinion the film is something even those who have no interest in baseball can get into. The film offers a unique lens to peer back to the 1970s and the world according to  one of baseball’s most unique and memorable players of all-time.
While the film deals with the infamous “LSD No Hitter”, it does so in the context of the larger story of Dock Ellis, much more interesting than the “novelty” of the infamous baseball feat he accomplished on June 12, 1970. The film is quite moving and inspirational, I will not spoil it for you so go see it. “No No” runs until Sept 18th at the Harris Theater.

Now back to baseball. Josh Baseball came to rescue once again to close out the suspended game. A few interesting things happened recently in no particular order:
Watson pitched the 7th & 8th, Melancon the 9th & 10th. I can’t remember anytime I’ve ever seen them eat up 4 inning between them. 
"Big John Stud" aka John Holdzkom got the save in the bottom of the 11th striking out 2 more. 5 of the 6 batters he’s face since being called up have been stuck out. The 6’ 9” 240 pounder from New Zealand has quite the story to tell.
Josh Harrison. First & Foremost let’s hope his ankle is OK. As of today here is where he ranks among the NL: 1st in the league in batting average (.315), 5th in slugging (.513), 7th in doubles (33), 7th in triples (7), 8th in OPS (.860)
I missed a good portion of the 2nd game, but here’s a good synopsis on Bucs Doughout, 
Tomorrow shall be interesting 1:00pm kickoff for Steelers and 2:20pm first pitch for the Pirates. I’ll be watching the Pirates.

The Dock Abides…

Today is a day that will live long in my memory of great days in  Pirates’ history. The Bucs won a 1.3 header and I finally got to see the long awaited and highly anticipated film: “No No: A dockumentary" on the life and times of famed Pirate pitcher Dock Ellis. 

In my humble opinion the film is something even those who have no interest in baseball can get into. The film offers a unique lens to peer back to the 1970s and the world according to  one of baseball’s most unique and memorable players of all-time.

While the film deals with the infamous “LSD No Hitter”, it does so in the context of the larger story of Dock Ellis, much more interesting than the “novelty” of the infamous baseball feat he accomplished on June 12, 1970. The film is quite moving and inspirational, I will not spoil it for you so go see it. “No No” runs until Sept 18th at the Harris Theater.

Now back to baseball. Josh Baseball came to rescue once again to close out the suspended game. A few interesting things happened recently in no particular order:

  1. Watson pitched the 7th & 8th, Melancon the 9th & 10th. I can’t remember anytime I’ve ever seen them eat up 4 inning between them.
  2. "Big John Stud" aka John Holdzkom got the save in the bottom of the 11th striking out 2 more. 5 of the 6 batters he’s face since being called up have been stuck out. The 6’ 9” 240 pounder from New Zealand has quite the story to tell.
  3. Josh Harrison. First & Foremost let’s hope his ankle is OK. As of today here is where he ranks among the NL: 1st in the league in batting average (.315), 5th in slugging (.513), 7th in doubles (33), 7th in triples (7), 8th in OPS (.860)

I missed a good portion of the 2nd game, but here’s a good synopsis on Bucs Doughout

Tomorrow shall be interesting 1:00pm kickoff for Steelers and 2:20pm first pitch for the Pirates. I’ll be watching the Pirates.

A Different Kind of a Double Header: Today, the Bucs will take on a rejuvenated Cubs team loaded with young hungry talent. First pitch is 2:20pm. The Bucs have been given charity CPR by the Braves and Brewers and still have a fighting chance for the 2nd wildcard spot. If they can go 5-2 in Chicago and Philadelphia they will have helped their cause tremendously. 6-1 or better would be a game changer.

Tonight, the long-awaited and highly anticipated documentary “No No” opens nationally. I have not seen the film yet, but there are reviews in the SF ChronicleLA Times  & Entertainment Weekly. The film is running here in Pittsburgh at the Harris Theater (starting tonight at 7:30pm) through Sept 18th, see showtime info here.

I hope that off-day helped get the “Sweep in St. Louie” out of your system. It sure did the trick for me. In the meantime let’s go Bucs and make your way to the Harris Theater to see “No No” before it leaves town.