Pittsburgh Pirates Playoff Preview. Those four words are just fun to say. Try saying them really fast and you will just start laughing. As a writer I am supposed to avoid alliteration but since I don’t really consider myself a writer I plan on just repeating that phrase to myself all day today.
As the only native Pittsburgher here at 6 Rings I feel compelled to write something here today on the Pirates first playoff game in 20 plus years. Full disclosure though I do not follow baseball closely and I do not know the game in enough detail to give you some type of “analysis” of what might happen tonight.
Instead I will give you five points to talk about tonight with your friends and or lover as you casually watch this game from afar…
My friends and I have long talked about how special it would be to have a playoff game at PNC Park. For those of you that have not been it is in fact one of the best ballparks in the country. The Park opened in 2001 to rave reviews and I think it is the best park in the league but it hasn’t had the spotlight of a playoff game, that changes tonight.
I don’t have tickets but I am going down to watch the game at a bar nearby and I plan on soaking up the amazing atmosphere. The area of town where PNC is located, the Northside, has undergone a transformation in the decade plus since the park has been built. Bars and restaurants around the stadium will be filled to the brim with fans trying to soak up playoff baseball. Tickets are going for upwards of $200 plus something unheard of for baseball here in the Burgh.
For those lucky enough to go they will be treated with a packed house with an amazing view on what should be a beautiful night weather wise. I have been to enough games here down the stretch to say that the atmosphere will be fantastic. There will be Pirates flags waving all over the stadium and I expect the crowd to be even more rambunctious than they are for other playoff games in this town.
I hope those watching on TV get a sense of just how special this experience is for this team and their fans.
I am probably most excited for all of my buddies who have maintained their allegiance to the Pirates through all the losing years. I used to follow the Pirates closely a decade ago when I grew up here but as I moved away I grew apart from the team and didn’t feel like spending my money on MLB Ticket to sit there and watch a losing team all summer. (I could do that for free when I lived in Chicago. They had 2 losing teams.)
So now that I have moved back here I have enjoyed reconnecting with the team and seeing long time buddies enjoy a full summer and September of meaningful baseball. I have also enjoyed reading long time Pirates blogs throughout this march towards the playoffs as well. There is something about the perspective of a blog that follows their team day in and day out that a national media outlet can not provide. The feeling they write with tomorrow, win or lose, just can’t be captured by someone coming to PNC for their first time.
I fully expect long time Pirates fan Doc Emrick, who is calling the Hawks/Caps opener tonight, to talk nothing but baseball throughout the whole broadcast. I look forward to watching the clips of this on Deadspin tomorrow.
And for guys like myself who have jumped back on the bandwagon we are not alone. The majority of casual sports fans will be supporting the Pirates and it would be nice of the Reds to let the Buccos have this one.
One Game Wild Card Games Are Stupid
I just want to type this before the Pirates play so my opinion is clear regardless of the outcome. Playing a one game playoff after a 162 game season is dumb. It totally dilutes what both the Pirates and Indians accomplished throughout the regular season and I would have this opinion regardless of whether the Pirates were involved or not.
That being said I understand why they did it because it is going to be exciting. Selig wanted to recapture the magic of the end of 2011 season and try and build in that excitement which it will. Everyone will be on the edge of their seat from start to finish and I fully expect to pace back and forth like a mad man and hug and kiss random strangers if the Buccos pull it off.
The Actual Game
If you want a real breakdown read this here. The pitching matchup is Johnny Cueto vs Fransisco Liriano which will be interesting because of Cueto’s health and Liriano’s ability to shutdown left handed hitters.
The Reds lineup is stacked with lefties and Liriano had one of the best seasons ever against left handed batters. The key here is Liriano is either on or off with little to no in between. If he comes out the first three innings and shuts the Reds down then it should be a good night. If he starts to lose it, I would expect Cole to warm up in the pen.
The Buccos lineup mashed the Reds all last weekend on their way to a sweep and I hope we get at least one homer tonight just to see what PNC Park is like. The key will be the bullpen of the Pirates to not fall apart as it has on multiple occasions down the stretch. Grilli and Melancon were both All Stars but were not in All Star form near the end of the year.
I am not predicting the game because it is baseball and it is insane.
When All Else Fails Hate Ohio
The nice part about playing the Reds is they are easy to hate. Dusty Baker is an old school curmudgeon who has his guys throw at our stars and the two teams do not like each other. Add that to the fact the Reds not only wear red but are from Ohio. This will be like old hat for me.
I fully expect a zoo down on the Northside tonight and I plan on soaking it all up with good company and a few cold beverages. Hopefully we can raise that Jolly Roger around 11pm tonight.