Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Pirates clinch first playoff spot in 21 years after thrilling victory at Wrigley Field

It's amazing how the times and technology (and a bad TV) can make something truly memorable.

On Monday night, I was following the Bucs Dugout gamethread on the Internet, when I noticed everyone reacting to the fact that Starling Marte hit a ninth inning home run to give Pittsburgh a 2-1 lead over the Cubs at Wrigley Field. 

As soon as I read that, I immediately began to try to turn my TV on. Now the reason I wrote "try" is because my TV has been dysfunctional for a very long time, and instead of biting the bullet and getting a new one, I've just gotten used to the process of holding the "power" button on my remote and allowing the set to warm up and finally turn on--a process that takes about 10 minutes, give or take. 

While I was doing this on Monday, I was also visiting the Cardinals official team website on my laptop computer because St. Louis was playing the Nationals (the only team left who could destroy Pittsburgh's postseason prospects), and I wanted to keep tabs on the score because a Washington loss combined with a Pirates win would give the Buccos their first postseason berth since before Bill Clinton was President. 

Beings that the Pirates are currently chasing St. Louis for the NL Central crown, I suppose I had mixed feelings about a Cardinals win, but any postseason berth is wonderful, and since you don't get to see "clinches" everyday, I was rooting for St. Louis, at that moment.

Anyway, while continuing with the whole "trying to turn my TV on process," I heard people talking on my laptop. Turns out, a "live look-in" of the Pirates/Cubs game popped up on the Cardinals site, thanks to MLB.com, the flagship site that houses every team's official website, so as I was still trying to get my TV to turn on, I was standing in front of my laptop, watching Jason Grilli get the second out of the ninth inning, thanks to a force-play at second base.

There was a runner on first, and the count on the Cubs batter was 2-2. Just then, as I anticipated seeing closer Jason Grilli punch out the last batter, so Pittsburgh could clinch at least a tie for the second wild card, MLB.com stopped the feed (dirty play). In the meantime, my TV came on, so I quickly turned to WGN, Chicago's superstation that I get on my basic cable package (the Pirates cable station, Root Sports, isn't available on basic cable, so I was hoping the Cubs game would be on WGN). Turns out, after all that trouble, I realized the Cubs game wasn't on, so I turned the TV off and turned the radio on (why didn't I just check WGN's website for its tv listings? Shut up!). 

Just as I turned the radio on, I heard the final play of the game. With Nate Schierholtz on first base, Ryan Sweeney hit a pop fly single to shallow right-center field, that right fielder Marlon Byrd misplayed. Schierholtz would have wound up at third, anyway, but because of the error by Byrd, Chicago's third base coach decided to send Schierholtz home. A split second after Byrd's error, Pirates all-world center and potential MVP Andrew McCutchen, who was backing Byrd up on the play, picked the ball up and threw it toward home plate, missing two cut-off men. First baseman Justin Morneau, like Byrd, a late August acquisition, grabbed the baseball, a la Derek Jeter, and threw to catcher Russell Martin who tagged Schierholtz for the game-ending out. 

I reacted like I would normally react following a big Steelers win, because on September 23, with a playoff berth on the line, any baseball win by the home team is special. 

About 20 minutes later, the Cardinals defeated Washington, and the goggles and champagne were plentiful in the Pirates clubhouse. 

I'm glad the Pirates celebrated like they hadn't reached the postseason for 21 years, instead of maybe the business-like celebration a more postseason savvy team might have. 

After six Presidential elections, the fans deserved as much. 

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