Saturday, September 20, 2014

Big win leads Pirates to unfamiliar territory

Peter Diana/Post-Gazette

Russell Martin takes a pie to the face from Neil Walker after beating the Brewers at PNC Park.
There’s a standing army of commentators pretending to understand not only the framework but the direction of the baseball postseason that begins in just 10 days, and plenty of them are talking about the Pirates.
But as we learned at the start of an fairly urgent three-game series with the Brewers Friday night on the North Shore, how the Pirates or the Brewers or anybody else in this discussion are going to act from one minute to the next in this crystallizing pennant race is truly a fool’s prophecy.
From the Bureau of Spontaneous Whiplash, for example, the Pirates spent seven long innings Friday looking like they were transforming from a team that scores three runs on one swing to scoring three runs in two nights — until they snapped back to three runs on one swing again — Russell Martin’s decisive rocket launcher of a swing in the eighth inning.
The Brewers, for another example, went from losing 13 of 14 to winning five of eight, then almost instantly threw away a critical game they led for 2½ hours.
“We gotta make pitches,” lamented Brewers manager Ron Roenicke after Martin set the place on fire with one out in the eighth. “Russell’s up there battling. You can’t make mistakes, and it’s not just him, all of those guys can barrel it up.”
In the case of Clint Hurdle’s team, however, there was at least one thing that could have been predicted confidently about the looming postseason, or at least I was willing to do it: I didn’t see them winning the final game of the NLDS and then sweeping the NLCS, nor did I see them winning Game 7 of the NLCS and then sweeping to their first World Series title in 35 years.
To do either of those things, you see, they’d have to win five games in a row, and maybe you’ve noted that until Martin’s heroics, until Friday night, they couldn’t win five games in a row.
It was fairly ridiculous, for as long as it lasted, which was only for the first 93.8 percent of the season.
Everybody else in this NL Central had won five in a row.
The Cubs had done it.
The Cubs.
The worst team in baseball, your Texas Rangers, had done it twice.
The Los Angeles Angels of Adjacent Orange County had done it six times.
Watching the Pirates trying to do this had become akin to watching cows trying to pick up a telephone.
So let the record show that in Game No. 153, on their seventh try at extending a four-game winning streak, the Pirates came from behind to beat the Brewers, 4-2.
The Cows had answered the phone.
“Hello? When are we coming home? Well wouldn’t you like to know!”
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