Today, separated each by a single game, the Pittsburgh Pirates play the Cincinnati Reds. Each team holds a wild card spot and if the season ended today, the Pirates would play the Reds in the one-game Wild Card game to earn the right to play a five-game series against the Atlanta Braves.
If one were to say tonight’s game is possibly the most important one this season, that person wouldn’t be totally wrong in the eyes of the Pirates’ manager Clint Hurdle. But it wouldn’t be totally right, as Hurdle would say, because the most important game the Pirates are playing is the one they play today.
“This is our next game, this is the most important game we’ll play all season. What greater statement can you make than that?” Hurdle said. “This is the most important game we’ll play all season. Then we’ll play another one tomorrow.’
It just so happens that the Pirates play the Reds today, tomorrow, and Sunday. The playoff race will come to a head a week from today when the two teams play their final three games of the regular season in Cincinnati.
This weekend, though, represents quite possibly the most meaningful weekend of baseball played in Pittsburgh, in the month of September, in a very long time. At least, in the last 20 years.
To play meaningful baseball at this point in the season is what Hurdle signed up for when he boarded the Pirates ship in the winter almost three years ago.
“I just finished up a conversation with a person along those lines. They looked me in the eye and said ‘So this is why came here?’ I said ‘Absolutely.’ I’ve envisioned this,” Hurdle said. “Did I know when? No. Did I believe it would happen? Yes. I needed to play my part, and we still have parts to play.”
The parts played by Hurdle and the Pirates to this point have been enough to say Hurdle’s goal to “re-connect a city to its baseball team” has been achieved. For proof, take the encounters Hurdle has recently had with Pirates fans.
“It’s good to get better, it’s good for so many levels. The people I talked to last night at the Clemente Museum for the fundraiser. I can’t tell you how many different people have said ‘this hasn’t happened since…’ and they can tie it to another thing,” Hurdle said. “They’re 50 now, they’re 30 now. ‘I was 10, I was 20. I just got married, now I’ve got six kids, I’m a grandfather.’ It’s crazy, it’s life.”
“So from that point of it that’s what humbles you about being in a small group of people that can bring a lot of different joys and feel-goods for many people, in many different ways,” Hurdle said. “Like I said, we’re not finished, we’re heading in the right direction.”
- Jose Tabata LF
- Neil Walker 2B
- Andrew McCutchen CF
- Justin Morneau 1B
- Marlon Byrd RF
- Pedro Alvarez 3B
- Russell Martin C
- Jordy Mercer SS
- Francisco Liriano P
- Shin-soo Choo CF
- Brandon Phillips 2B
- Joey Votto 1B
- Ryan Ludwick LF
- Jay Bruce RF
- Todd Frazier 3B
- Zack Cozart SS
- Devin Mesoraco C
- Mat Latos P