Pirates 3-Braves 3-Jerry Meals 1

I was beginning to hit the wall.

My eyes had grown bleary from the constant movement from T.V. to Tweet Deck for the past six plus hours.

“I have to get to bed for work tomorrow,” I thought to myself. “But I can’t miss this.”

I had made it through 18 and a half innings of the Pirates-Braves contest last night, and lived to tell the tale (actually I am pretty sure everyone did).

The events of the ground ball Scott Proctor hit in the bottom of the 19th will resonate with me for a long time. That shot of adrenaline as I saw Jerry Meals make the safe sign kept me up until four.

Having been an umpire through my teenage years, I understand the stress that comes with the job. I usually give them the benefit of the doubt knowing that their judgement is usually right.

But c’mon man.

I’ve umpped games through rain and snow, from 95 degrees to below freezing. Yet I always knew better than to call it a day early. People can sniff it out, easily and there would probably be a smashed window in my car to remind me. There is no doubt in my mind Meals wanted to get the heck out of there after seeing somewhere in the ballpark of 600 pitches.  It just didn’t matter to him.

But I’m not going to let that ruin my enjoyment of what will probably be one of the best games any of us will ever witness.

The Pirates got three quick runs at the start of the game. A big triple from Neil Walker and a bomb of a home run from Michael McKenry were the key hits. The Braves fought back scoring three of their own in the bottom of the third despite having the first two batters of the inning get out.

Then things settled down.

Both starters Tommy Hanson and Jeff Karstens didn’t go deep due to high pitch counts early. The bullpens became the stars of the night afterwards.

Inning after inning. Jam after jam. Neither would budge. There were enough escapes to make Houdini jealous.

Situations like that are what make for great baseball. Will this be the winning run on base now? Is this the pitch that ends it? How much longer can it go on?

The sideshows that went on also added another fun dimension to the game. As the stadium emptied out, a girl could be heard screaming her lungs out for her beloved Buccos before every pitch, even though the clock read past 1:00 a.m. A group of college kids attempted balancing a huge stack of over 100 souvenir cups they had collected from the nearly empty Turner Field. Hearing Greg Brown and John Wehner trying to keep themselves awake and coherent made for a classic broadcast.

Yet after the whole debacle was settled, and the venting online was made, I took a second and appreciated what I saw.

I saw two teams on a muggy night give it their all over the course of what was essentially a little more than two games. It’s unfortunate the way it turned out. I was upset that I didn’t record it, just for having in the future. The Pirates should probably release it on DVD as I don’t think there have been many more exciting games in the team’s history. I know I would buy it the second it comes out.

If anything, this game let me know just how much the revived Bucco Nation is into this team. Here it was, 2 a.m. on a Wednesday morning, with Twitter and Facebook crashing from all of the people commenting.

The real concern here is if the team lets it affect them in the next few games. It could, but I highly doubt it. Clint Hurdle knows these Pirates are better than that.

The best part is the players know it too.

Gettin’ down on Friday: Pirates vs Rockies 4-8-11

Shortly after Jason Giambi sent a Ross Ohlendorf offering deep into the cool, damp evening, giving the Rockies a 3-0 first inning lead, I along with many other fans were wondering “how can this series get any worse?”

Five hours and 11 and 1/3 scoreless innings from the Pirates bullpen later, the remaining crowd at PNC Park got their chance to enjoy the first home win of the season, with some unlikely events deciding the game in the end.

With the weather being as crappy as it was, I only got to my seats minutes before first pitch.

With the weather so bad, I was surprised at how many people showed up. Being “Buc Night” most of the seats in the stadium were sold for $1, which aided attendance.

Ross Ohlendorf took to the hill, where he was looking to snap out of his early season funk.

It wouldn’t happen in the first, as after a lead-off walk and single by the first two batters, Jason Giambi took a 1-2 offering and crushed it into the seats, giving the Rockies a 3-0 lead. Something was definitely up with Ross, as in the third his pitches began losing velocity. After recording two outs in the third, he called on the trainers to check him out, and he couldn’t continue. Things looked bleak.

Not even one of my favorite SNL sketches of all time could keep me from feeling uneasy as the new pitcher warmed up.

Luckily for the Pirates Jeff Karstens was able to answer the call, getting back control of the game with a solid long relief appearance. It would set the tone for the rest of the bullpen’s pitching the rest of the night.

The Pirates offense would get out to a slow start. But they started to get patient with pitcher Jorge De La Rosa, and it would pay off.

Their first run of the game came after two walks and productive outs scored a run in the fourth. In the fifth, Jose Tabata got the Pirates some momentum back with the first bucco blast at PNC in 2011. With the momentum in hand, and Rebecca Black’s “Friday” being the rallying cry, Jason Jaramillo, who struggled mightily in 2010, came through in the clutch hitting a key single to nod the game up at three.

Jose Veras and Joel Hanrahan mowed down the Rockies in the 8th and 9th.

The Pirates pitchers were baffling the Colorado hitters.

The Pirates blew a chance to win it in the 9th when Steve Pearce got a one out singe. A wild pitch moved him to second, and shortly after Jose Tabata grounded out moving him to third. With the crowd on their feet, many of which were waving the free shirts given out, the Pittsburgh Kid Neil Walker came up short by striking out to end the threat.

Though there were some tense moments later in the game. Chris Resop was able to get out of some jams, with some timely defense, primarily from Pedro Alvarez.

The game went deeper and deeper into the night. Neither team could push the run across. The teams’ bullpens and benches were running low. Closer Huston Street even got an at-bat for the Rockies.

Eventually the clock struck midnight

The few remaining fans had braved the cold for over five hours to see the Pirates come out victorious.

After getting through the 14th inning stretch, the Pirates appeared to be heading down in order and we would be heading to the 15th. That would not be the case however.

Josh Rodriguez drew a walk, and then reasons that we’ll never understand, the Rockies decided to pitch to Jose Tabata with pitcher Garrett Olson on deck. Being the quick-thinking manager he is, Clint Hurdle sent up Andrew McCutchen to the on-deck circle in an attempt to fool Colorado. I noticed this, and Cutch wasn’t wearing batting gloves. Fooled or not, the Rockies gave Jose his pitch to hit, he nailed it high off the Clemente wall, Rodriguez scored and the Pirates came out victorious for the first time at home in 2011.

The Ecstasy and the Agony: Home Opener 2011

Picture this.

You’ve heard many great things from your friend about a certain girl or guy. They sound like a perfect match for you. You then finally get to meet this certain someone and they are far from what you have learned. You go running in the opposite direction.

I feel like the Pittsburgh Pirates are like that girl/guy you hear about.

They did great things on the road, starting the season 4-2. But when we get to see them in person, they laid an egg.

I was one of the 39,000+ that was at PNC Park today that witnessed the 7-1 whipping at the hands of the Colorado Rockies, but rather than focus on the negatives, like so many will, there were many great things that happened that made the day worthwhile.

I got to the stadium at 10:30. PNC gleamed in the morning sun.

I got into line and at 11:00 got into the stadium.

If you haven’t read my old blog much, you should know that I like to frequent batting practice at baseball games. There is nothing better than watching a 400 foot home run into your glove in the bleachers. Plus you get to have some cool experiences with the players in the meantime.

I’m usually worried about “getting on the board” early. However, I wouldn’t have to wait long. Just 8 minutes in, Matt Diaz bombed a home run that landed on the concrete area between the first and second deck of bleachers in left field. It took a high bounce landed halfway into the second deck and I ran up and picked it up.

(Photo taken after the fact)

Now that the pressure was off, I was able to loosen up. When the last group was up, Neil Walker hit a drive into left-center field. Though a lot of people played it in the front row, but it skipped past them. It came right to me. Two balls in 15 minutes! Couldn’t ask for a better day. I spent the rest of Pirates BP getting pics.

Josh Rodriguez

Steve Pearce (who would send the pitch .5 seconds afterwards right at me, almost breaking my camera)

It was also nice to catch up with the other batting practice regulars about what they were up to in the winter.

The beginning of the Rockies BP was quite boring, and my dad and brother met me. We then went to share the obligatory Opening Day feast of Primanti Brothers sandwiches. It could not have been a more beautiful day for baseball.

The pre-game ceremonies began with a nice tribute to former Pirates manager Chuck Tanner. Leading the Pirates to a World Series victory in 1979, he was beloved by all Pirate fans. Many members of that team were on hand, and an emotional Kent Tekulve gave a great speech. The scoreboard played this video montage.

They then unveiled a memorial in right-centerfield that will remain on the fence all season.

After the rest of the usual ceremonies it was time for the team introductions. The Rockies took their place along the first baseline, with plenty of boos for former Pirate manager Jim Tracy.

They along with the Parrot were looking in awe at this ridiculously stupid video that played before the Pirates introduction.

As Greg Brown introduced the Pirates one by one, I must say, it was the most electric of any Opening Day I have ever been to. Most of the stadium gave the team a standing ovation, giving every player from Andrew McCutchen to Michael Crotta a huge ovation. Unlike past years, the fans believe.

There are few things better in sports than the national anthem at a baseball team’s opener.

Paul Maholm throwing the first pitch at PNC Park in 2011

We all know how the game ended up, so I’ll share some photos. Here’s Jose Tabata.

Neil Walker

Lyle Overbay

Pedro Alvarez

Ryan Doumit

Garrett Jones

Cutch in centerfield

Esmil “Next Cy Young” Rogers

I had no idea Todd Helton still played baseball

Troy Tulowitzki

The Pirates are like the CBS of baseball when it comes to montages. This one aired before the team came to bat in the first and features the one of the new and always entertaining at bat pictures for 2011 at the end. Very cool.

Yesterday, the best and worst of baseball was seen at PNC Park. Yes, we could all rejoice that baseball had returned to the North Shore, but the harsh reality that the team can’t keep up the pace of their first week of play showed. Good thing for them is that there is a game tomorrow and the team is 4-3. I have a feeling that Clint Hurdle will do his best to get the team’s heads back in the game, something that wouldn’t have happened with John Russell at the helm.