One bad call at home plate is all it took to derail this team. Not long ago, the Pittsburgh Pirates were the feel good story of the National League, if not the entire league. The team was firing on all cylinders. Andrew McCutchen was poised to lead the Bucs into the postseason for the first time since 1992.
Jeff Karstens was throwing complete games. The bullpen was stellar. Neil Walker was putting up solid numbers, and helping a young team grow before our eyes.
Then came the call. Near the top of the standings, the Pirates were engaged in a marathon battle against the Atlanta Braves at Turner Field. Fifteen innings passed without a run as the bullpen effort from both sides was spectacular.
The 19th inning rolled on for Pittsburgh just as the previous frames had, without a run. The Braves took their turn at the dish with a depleted bench. With Julio Lugo poised at third base, pitcher Scott Proctor, forced to bat for himself, grounded to third off of reliever Daniel McCutchen. Pedro Alvarez delivered an on-target throw home to catcher Michael McKenry, for what appeared to be an easy out. Unfortunately, as we know now, home plate umpire Jerry Meals missed the call, admittedly, allowing the Braves a walk-off win, and the Pirates a costly defeat.
The Pirates split the next two games in Atlanta, staying well within the race for a division title. Seven games later, Pittsburgh has remained winless, and a dismal 1-8 since ‘the call’. They’ve lost heartbreakers and blowouts along the way.
What’s worse is that the Pirates are currently seven games out of first, behind the Brewers and Cardinals, after being swept by the lowly Cubs.
At this point, it is safe to say that the feel good story is over. The Pirates have woken up from this dream and learned their proper place in the world of baseball. Two games below .500 even has the Cincinnati Reds a mere half game behind the Pirates. Most media services agree that the Reds are now a bigger threat to make a run at a division title than Pittsburgh.
Worry no more Pittsburgh fans! The pressure is off of the young Bucs! You can go back to casual baseball and warm summer days by the river.
Hey…at least you aren’t the Astros!