It's A Night 21 Years in the Making. The Bucs are Playoff Bound!
Fast forward to 2013 where the Bucs were trying to clinch their first winning season since that disastrous end to 1992. They win their 81st game in Milwaukee, their biggest house of horrors. They win their 82nd game and clinch a winning season against the Rangers, a team that they had previously never beaten. After their final home game yesterday the magic number to clinch a playoff spot was two. 20 years of agony and frustration in Pittsburgh, all the years of losing, the laughing stock of baseball, never a playoff team...until now!
The Nationals were still in the hunt entering tonight's games, but they were on life support and playing St. Louis. The Bucs were playing in Wrigley. A Pirates win and a Nationals loss would put Pittsburgh in a place they haven't been in a long time.
The Pittsburgh Kid, Neil Walker, hit a solo home run in the top of the 1st inning at Wrigley, while Jayson Werth hit a 2-run bomb in the first inning in St. Louis. Meanwhile, a win for the Reds and a Nats loss would also put Cincinnati in the playoffs once again. All 3 teams jumped out to early leads, with the Reds scoring two in the bottom of the 2nd.
Charlie Morton settled into a zone and went 7 innings of shutout baseball, leaving after 7 with the Bucs holding on to that 1-0 lead. In St. Louis, the Cards went to work, scoring a run of their own in the first and tying it in the 4th. Carlos Beltran launched a 2-run home run in the 5th to put the Cardinals on top 4-2. In Cincinnati, it became a chorus of Camptown Races, as Lucas Duda hit a sacrifice fly and a solo homer to tie the game 2-2.
In the 8th inning at Wrigley, the Cubs finally got on the board as Mark Melancon continued to struggle to hold a lead. The Nats were putting the makings of a nice inning together, but could only manage to score one run and still trailed 4-3. Cincinnati and the Mets would go extra innings.
In the bottom of the 10th, the Reds hopped aboard the Choo Choo train, as Shin Soo Choo hit a walk-off single off the wall, driving in Devin Mesoraco for a 3-2 victory. The magic number was now down to one.
The game was tied 1-1 at Wrigley headed to the 9th when Starling Marte launches a home run that was a no-doubter, just a couple rows from going out onto Waveland Ave. In the bottom of the 9th, Jason Grilli returned to his closer role to get the final 2 outs. The Cubs are down to their final strike with a runner on first. Ryan Sweeney hit a liner to right center field for a base hit, Marlon Byrd bobbled it slightly. Andrew McCutchen picked it up as Nate Schierholtz was rounding third attempting to score. The relay throw to Russell Martin was right on target, he was there waiting for the runner, and held onto the ball through the collision. The Pirates hang on to win it 2-1.
Meanwhile back at Busch Stadium, the Nats must win to keep their slim playoff hopes alive. Former Pirate Adam Laroche popped up to shallow left field for the final out, and the Pirates locker room went nucking futz!
Roberto Clemente's family is in Pittsburgh this week to promote a new book written by his son. One son had not been here in 21 years because he was scared to fly after his father was killed in a plane crash. This is a night 21 years in the making in the Burgh. This is why they hired Clint Hurdle. This was the ultimate goal of this team, and finally, after all these years, it's not a misprint, the Pittsburgh Pirates are in the playoffs!
There are 5 games left for the Cardinals, Pirates, and Reds. All 3 teams have now clinched a playoff berth, and it's time to have one final shootout to decide the NL Central. Let's have at it boys! Congratulations to the Pirates, whether you like the team or not, you've got to be happy for this team for turning it around after so many years of suffering.
I'll let Pittsburgh sports broadcaster Stan Savran sum up the way the city feels tonight. "If you're sitting at home, pop some champagne, wine, beer, pop, even if you just have some fizzy water. Spray it all over yourself."
That said, I'm just one of the many fans who has suffered through the last 20 years. I don't think anyone can explain what this night means more than Pittsburgh's own Neil Walker, who grew up watching the misery unfold year after year. Now he is playing for his hometown team and helped to clinch the team's first playoff berth in 2 decades. You just can't put a price on that, folks!
BK over and out