First Pitch: Did You Even Realize This Once Important Milestone Was Approaching?

The first MLB game I ever covered live was on June 24th, 2011. I was going up to cover the debut of Chase d’Arnaud, back when he was one of the top prospects in the system. There was also the chance to cover a Pirates team that looked like they might be contenders, flirting around .500 in a weak division. I remember the game well, not because of d’Arnaud’s debut, but because it was against the Red Sox, and had the best atmosphere I had ever seen in PNC Park. That atmosphere would be replaced by the Wild Card game last year, but it still is memorable.

The most notable thing came in the eighth inning. Jose Veras came in with the Pirates ahead 3-1, six outs away from beating the Red Sox and going one game over .500. This was back in the day when going over .500 after Memorial Day caused everyone’s hopes to go up. Veras gave up two singles to start the inning, followed by a sacrifice bunt to move the tying runs into scoring position. He then came up big in what I thought at the time was a moment that you only saw out of contenders. Veras struck out Marco Scutaro, then got David Ortiz to ground out to shortstop, ending the inning and escaping the jam. The roar of the crowd was huge. The energy was electric.

A little over three years later, the Red Sox return to PNC Park. Things have changed since that last meeting when the Pirates took two of three against Boston. The Red Sox went on to struggle in 2012, win the World Series in 2013, then go back to struggling in 2014. The Pirates meanwhile continued their ascent, although in a “why won’t this old car start?” kind of way. After two failed revs of the engine in 2011 and 2012, they broke their losing streak and made it to the post-season.

Three years ago, the atmosphere in PNC Park was electric, especially due to the significance of going over .500 in June. This week the Pirates should take at least two games against the Red Sox, which would give them win number 81. They might even seal their second winning season in a row against Boston. And the upcoming accomplishment is something I didn’t even think about until tonight. My, how quickly things change.

Expanding on that thought, I didn’t even realize that last Tuesday marked the one year anniversary of win number 82. It was a huge moment at the time, and now it seems like so long ago that 82 wins mattered. We’re now in a situation where 82 wins feels like a failed season. In fact, the second Wild Card spot might seem disappointing to some at this point. That’s not unusual. It’s just how it’s actually like to follow a contender and a good team.

The upcoming series against the Red Sox had me reflecting on that last series between the two teams, and how much has changed during that time. I have to say, I prefer the current situation to the 2011 situation. In terms of which line of thinking is more preferred, I’d take “Will they get the Wild Card or win the division?” any day over “Playoffs seem unreasonable to think about, so let’s focus on whether they can stay above .500.”

Links and Notes

**Pittsburgh Pirates Fall Instructional League Roster and Schedule

**Looking at Why Charlie Morton is Replacing Vance Worley in the Rotation

**The Tommy John Rehab Progress For Jameson Taillon and Clay Holmes

**Morning Report: Pirates Having Trouble Finding Late Round Draft Talent

First Pitch

  • I have been thinking about getting to 82. Stringing 2 or more winning seasons in a row is important to subdue the “they will never win with Nutting” crowd. A losing season in ’14 would have meant people screaming that they should have spent more money.

  • Didn’t even cross my mind…In fact it took me a second to even realize what you were talking about based on the headline. That’s a good feeling.

  • I haven’t given 82 a thought, but rather 86-87 has been my focus for over a month. Obsessing at how we can get to that number and make the playoffs.

  • Oh, I’m still very aware of win number 82…. Been on my mind for several weeks. Back to back winning seasons still seems like a nice accomplishment to me after two decades of losing

  • Actually, I’ve been holding my breath. The mark of being a good team is having SOME winning seasons in a row. When our pitching and defense were so off this year, there were many days that I counted up the wins to get to 82… I was glad that the Bucs didn’t go all in on Lester, because I didn’t (and still don’t) think they have all the pieces for this year. Over the winter, the rotation must be addressed, as well as the 1st base mess, and the annual bullpen update. If that goes well, and Taillon doesn’t go down in Spring Training, we should be in a better place to contend.

    • I sure hope they go hard after Lester the day after the World Series ends.

      • Not gonna be fun trying to outbid teams like the Red Sox and Cubs for that type of arm. Cubs will certainly go after Lester or Price and have a boatload to offer.

      • That would be fine, but I’d rather they went hard at Russell Martin right now – he makes a difference 4 days out of 5.

    • The Pirates have been in win-now mode all season. They’ve won the season series vs LA and SF, and know they can compete equally with Cards and Nats. No reason they shouldn’t be thinking of winning the NL pennant.

  • Key sentence: “We’re now in a situation where 82 wins feels like a failed season”.

  • But Tim….this year is a HUGE milestone for Clint. It would be his first back to back winning seasons as a manager.

    So I WILL be celebrating that 82nd win for the ‘Hipster’.

  • i remember sitting in RF and rain just started POURING during an Ortiz AB in that series. Honestly, he had to have been p***ed that play wasn’t stopped because it was insane. *Might* be the Veras AB you’re talking about, but for some reason i think it was Hanrahan in the AB i’m thinking about. I took as much of a mental picture of the situation as I could because that… to me… was the most intense, playoff-like moment of my Pirate fan life at the time. Ahhh simpler times.

    That was such a fun series. I think I remember Overbay going deep vs Wakefield?

  • 35,884. Average that in each of the final six games and Bucs will have a new attendance record.

    It would also be only the second time Bucs have averaged more than 30K per game.

  • Remember that Red Sox game well. It WAS a turning point for the Pirates. Recall the moment when Ortiz emerged from the dug out.

    We Pirates fans took a deep breath. After all, here was the epitome of the Red Sox, BIG David Ortiz coming out of the dugout to win the game for the mighty Sox, a big name type player the Pirates did not have at that moment. But Veras was hot and got him out. Then, as I recall, Joel Hanrahan was lurking in the bull pen to the surprise of the Sox.

    When he came out for the 9th, it was all over. The game had a big time crowd and a big time atmosphere, unseen in Pittsburgh for twenty years. Yeah, it was something special!

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