Tuesday, July 2, 2013

It feels good to see the Pirates turn the tables on Milwaukee

I remember it well. It was NFL Draft Day 2010, and the Steelers selected center Maurkice Pouncey out of Florida with their first round selection. I found it appropriate that Pittsburgh selected a center because earlier in the day, at PNC Park, someone needed to block the Brewers from ever touching home plate again after their 20-0 butt-whipping of the Pirates before what I'm only guessing was a pretty sparse crowd.

If ever a game was a microcosm of the Pirates' struggles against Milwaukee in recent years, it was April 22nd, 2010. To say the Brewers have owned Pittsburgh would be a huge understatement. From 2008-2012, Milwaukee went 63-18 against the Pirates--including 14-1 in 2008 when the Brewers clinched their first playoff spot in 26 years.

If ever there was a tormentor the Pirates had to vanquish on their way to (hopefully) clearing the Clint Hurdle, it was Milwaukee.

The Pirates' struggles with the Brew Crew are very reminiscent of the problems Pittsburgh had with those nasty Mets' teams back in the mid-to-late-80s. From 1986-1988, the Pirates went 13-41 against New York--including 1-17 in the Mets' '86 World Series season.

According to Bob Walk on an old FSN production of Spotlight: 1990 Pirates, the Mets not only liked to beat up on Pittsburgh, they loved to talk about it. And boy did they have  a cast of characters you loved to hate, including guys like Lenny Dykstra, Darryl Strawberry and Dwight "Pirates are like a little league team" Gooden.

A cast of loathsome baseball players who were obnoxious and loved to kick you to the ground and then rub dirt in your face? That certainly sounds a lot like some recent Brewers rosters that included Prince Fielder, Ryan Braun and Rickie Weeks.

Back to those 80s Mets teams. Even though the Pirates still struggled a bit with New York in 1990, going 8-10 that season, Pittsburgh swept the Mets in a three-game series in early September to extend its lead in the National League East from a half a game to three and a half. This ultimately proved to be the difference in the Pirates winning the division that year, as they clinched the title with three games left in the regular season.

Pittsburgh soon turned the tables on the struggling Mets' franchise, going a combined 26-10 against New York the following two seasons on the way to winning two more division titles.

Unlike those early 90s Pirates teams, it remains to be seen if the 2013 edition has truly turned the corner in general, but they may have turned the tide against Milwaukee. So far this season, Pittsburgh is 9-4 against the Brewers--the Pirates hadn't won more than five games against Milwaukee in any of the past five seasons--and it sure feels good to kick some dirt in an old tormentor's face.

It was a great weekend at PNC Park, as the Pirates swept Milwaukee for the first time since 2009, including a blow-out victory and a couple of 2-1 triumphs that had to leave the Brewers players shaking their heads in frustration--that sure sounds like how a lot of recent trips to Miller Park have gone for the Pirates, doesn't it?

If the Pirates have truly turned the corner, I will relish the next season or so, because, in edition to Milwaukee, they have a lot of bullies to pay back.

You hear that, San Diego Padres? We're coming for you!

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