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The Sound and the Fury that was PNC Park … and projecting the NLDS rotations

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AT 30,000 FEET, ON LITTLE SLEEP, EN ROUTE TO ST. LOUIS – I heard similar thoughts and expressions last night from a host of different people, from different walks of life, who shared one common experience: they had attended a number of major league baseball games.

 

What they said: “I’ve never heard anything like it.”

 

Russell Martin and A.J. Burnett had played in postseason games in New York. They said they had never heard anything like it.

 

Pirates manager Clint Hurdle has been in the game since the 1970s. He never heard anything quite like it. “I think everyone who was here tonight will remember this for a long, long time,” Hurdle said.

 

I spoke to one veteran journalist who had attended Pirates games in Forbes Field, Three Rivers Stadium, and PNC Park. He said he had never heard such a decibel level.

 

Growing up in Cleveland, I attended several postseason games and a 1995 World Series game. I’ve covered ACC basketball games in Duke’s Cameron Indoor Stadium and SEC-ACC football clashes in the Georgia Dome. Those were all ear-drum threatening, raucous atmospheres.  But Tuesday night’s PNC Park crowd was at least an equal in energy and enthusiasm. I’m not sure I’ve ever heard a baseball crowd quite like it.

 

Tuesday night’s PNC Park crowd made a difference. The crowd, waiting 21 years for that moment, might have made all the difference.

 

What if it was Francisco Liriano on the road — where he had a 4.32 ERA vs. his 1.47 home mark — and not Johnny Cueto?

 

Last week I wrote about how, home-field advantage was a real thing. I wrote about how the Reds and Pirates final regular season series had significance because home field was at stake. I cited statistical studies showing how the root of home-field advantage is tied to crowds influencing umpire and official’s on-field calls. But we saw Tuesday how a really, really great home crowd can also have a significant, tangible impact on players.

 

Before Tuesday’s game Dusty Baker said Johnny Cueto thrived in such environments. But when the PNC Park crowd began chanting “Cue-to … Cue-to” in the second inning, he dropped a routine toss back from catcher Ryan Hanigan. Moments later he coughed up a home run to Marlon Byrd which sent the place into frenzy, 40,000 jumping up and down at once, testing the structural integrity of the building. The press box shook.

 

Cueto looked rattled. I mean, really, who wouldn’t be? That’s not a normal postseason baseball crowd. Cueto had looked pretty good in his two starts back from the DL but he left everything up Tuesday and was out of the game before completing four innings.

 

Home-field matters but it wasn’t the only deciding factor.

 

Liriano, pitching through a sinus infection (His Michael Jordan-playing-through-the-flu moment?), and Russell Martin also played significant roles. And it seemed poetic justice that they did so since those two acquisitions, more than anything, changed the Pirates from a losing team to an NLDS-bound one in 2013.

 

Liriano took advantage of those lefty-on-lefty matchups and neutralized Joey Votto, Jay Bruce and Shin-Soo Choo with a wipeout slider (of the 12 sliders he threw to lefties, eight were swing and missed at). Martin has been a critical defensive addition to the club but his bat had quieted until Tuesday.

 

The two players were guaranteed only $8 million in 2013. They produced 7.2 WAR ($30 million value) in the regular season. Martin and Liriano – and a rare crowd – were the three biggest reasons why we will meet the Pirates in St. Louis.

 

PROJECTING THE NLDS PITCHING MATCHUPS

 

Tuesday night was great to watch as an objective observer, but here’s the thing. The St. Louis-Pittsburgh NLDS has a chance to be even better.

 

The Pirates just took the regular season series 10 games to nine. Along with the Dodgers, the Pirates and Cardinals have two of the best three pitching staffs in the National League.

 

GAME 1

A.J. Burnett vs. Adam Wainwright

This matchup is already locked in. Wainwright will finish in the top 5 of Cy Young voting but he’s cooled off some in the second half. Burnett is coming off one of his best outings.

 

GAME 2

Gerrit Cole vs. Lance Lynn

Lance Lynn is listed as the probable starter for St. Louis but I am projecting Cole in this spot because he is well rested. A key development is the Pirates didn’t need to use Cole over the weekend or Tuesday against Cincinnati.

 

GAME 3

Francisco Liriano vs. Shelby Miller

Liriano would be on regular rest for this start, which is the last guaranteed game of the series. Liriano is 3-0 with a 2.24 ERA vs. the Cardinals this season and has been a more effective pitcher at home. Also, one of the Cardinals’ best RHH, Allen Craig, is out of the series due to injury.

 

GAME 4 – if necessary

Charlie Morton vs. Joe Kelly

The Pirates and Cardinals don’t need to employ four-man rotations because of the off-day. But Hurdle indicated he’d prefer to keep his starters on regular rest.

 

GAME 5 – if necessary

Burnett vs. Wainwright II

 

This is going to be fun. Enjoy it folks.

-          TS

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Comments

  1. rb brown says:

    well guess what …those of watching on TV didn’t hear it!!! because of the BS sound mix networks use these days…compression baaaaad
    however i started with the Pirates in the early sixties with knothole games at Forbes Field..watching the genius of Roberto and Virdon climbing the vines in center..last night there were tears in my eyes

  2. Nate83 says:

    I’m just asking to get opinion more then saying this is what I would do but would starting Morton in game two have some merit. He is a groundball pitcher more then any starting pitcher in the entire major league. Why waste that on PNC Park which doesn’t give up many home runs in the first place? Allow Cole who seems to thrive on emotion and feed off of it to pitch game 3 or 4.

  3. Shawn says:

    MORTON GAME 2

    COLE GAME 4

  4. NorthPirateFan says:

    Actually I’m starting to appreciate the limits on the sound the national broadcast use. Watching the games on Root this season has become almost intolerable due to the shrieking, mmmmm chirpies? in the stands who seem to know exactly where microphones are though out the stadium and go on incessantly throughout the game(s)

    If I have to choose between losing out on hearing the crowd cheering and having my eardrums warbled for nine straight innings by those ignorant morons I’ll gladly give up the crowd noise.

    Last night was the first game all season I was able to watch and not have to mute the sound by the fifth inning.

  5. No because he is horrible in St. Louis…

  6. NMR says:

    I don’t think either pitcher is HR prone enough, nor is St Louis enough of a HR threat, to make decisions based on park effects.
    .
    I believe Cole will already be on 10 days of rest. Think I’d rather get him back out there, especially considering that gets him two days closer to his next start.

  7. DARYTHEPIRATEFAN says:

    I HAVE NEVER BEEN THIS HAPPY, LIRIANO WAS MASTERFUL AND I AM SO EXCITED , WE NEED LIRIANO TO PITCH GAME 2 ..

  8. NMR says:

    To be fair, he was pretty awful when he faced the Cards in Pittsburgh as well…
    .
    I’m revising my rotation:
    .
    Game 2 – Cole
    Game 3 – Liriano (normal rest)
    Game 4 – Morton

  9. NMR says:

    If Game 4 turns out to be an elimination game in the Cards favor, I bump AJ up for the start and use Morton in the role Gerrit Cole held last night.
    .
    I trust Charlie once through the order, which would work well if AJ were able to go at least four solid innings to start.

  10. BostonsCommon says:

    I think I like this a lot… Even though AJ would not..
    .
    When Locke was still throwing well, and Wandy was definitely coming back, and the Pirates had unlimited starting pitching options for the playoffs…. My opinion was that Charlie’s most valuable role for this Pirates playoff team was out of the pen. He is nearly untouchable the first time through a lineup.

  11. Foo says:

    Daryle…have you checked out the new blog site?

    Foo

  12. BostonsCommon says:

    I really like a Cole vs Lynn game 2 matchup. Cole’s recent ace-like performance speaks for itself. But have a lookie-lou at what Lance Lynn has done against the Pirates in 5 starts this year.
    .
    5.60 ERA, 30 hits in 27.1 IP and a .280 average against with 3 HR..
    .
    In his last 2 starts against the Bucs, he’s gone a total of 9.1 IP with 18 hits, 2 HR, 4BB, and 11 ER.
    .
    Wainwright is going to be tough in Game 1. I think Game 2 is where the Pirates sneak one out.

 
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