The Pittsburgh Pirates will play their most important game in twenty-plus years on Wednesday night. Since game seven on the 1992 NLCS, there has not been a single game that has been this meaningful for the battling Buccos.
They haven’t won a playoff series since 1979.
They’re sending a rookie pitcher to the mound in hostile territory for an elimination game. They’re facing one of the five best pitchers in the game of baseball, one who dominated them in his first start of the series, one who has had only one bad postseason appearance during his career.
Nearly every indicator seems to point towards a Cardinals win, the outlook is rather bleak. But what if the Pirates are able to go back to the well one more time, for one more win? What if Pedro Alvarez continues his torrid playoff pace? What if Andrew McCutchen keeps being Andrew McCutchen? What if Gerrit Cole goes out and dominates like he has over the last six weeks?
This season has been defined by the Pirates ability to exorcise demons. First the losing streak. Then a playoff berth. Then a playoff win against the Reds. Wouldn’t it be fitting for them to deal with another one of their extended streaks of futility? Many celebrated after the Pirates eighty-second win, and appropriately so. Even more after they clinched their playoff spot thanks to a great defensive play by Justin Morneau, followed by a Nationals loss. Pirates fans got so excited after the wild card win, that one even decided to jump off the Clemente bridge.
Wouldn’t it be fitting for the most beleaguered franchise in American professional sports over the last two decades to go on the road and knock off the team that has been nothing short of the model of consistency over that same span of time? The Pirates are built for long-term success. But why not continue the success this year? Why not continue to upset the apple cart of professional baseball?
The opportunity that the Pirates have on Wednesday is like something out of a 1990s baseball movie. They’re the team that’s long been mired at the bottom of the league. They’re the team that everyone (including their own fans) has made the butt of so many jokes over the years. They’re the team that employed Lloyd McClendon as their manager. They’re the team who had a player attack a giant anthropomorphic sausage with a baseball bat. But now thanks to several years of good drafting, solid free agent acquisitions, and a few well timed trades, the Pirates have an opportunity to pull off an upset of Sandlot-esque proportions.
They have a team built to contend not just this year, but for years to come, with a core of talented young players and a stacked farm system. Wouldn’t it be nice for that string of contention to continue tomorrow? Wouldn’t it be nice to remove one more monkey from the city of Pittsburgh’s collective backs?