Originally posted on WHYGAVS?  |  Last updated 8/30/12
Mlb-astros-pirates

I know that I occasionally lean on the "this is my life as an out-of-Pittsburgh Pirate fan in 2012" anecdotes a little heavily, but I'm kicking this recap off with one tonight. Despite my Debbie Downer routine earlier this week, I was pretty legitimately excited about the biggest Pirate game of 2012 being televised on ESPN. There wasn't any particular reason for it; I have MLB.tv and a Roku box and a nice computer screen and so I watch almost every Pirate game. I just liked the idea of the ESPN broadcast as validation that things are different with Pirate baseball this year. 

And so of course my work in lab this afternoon piled up and things didn't go quite like I expected them to (I'm going to be back in Pittsburgh for a long weekend over the holiday, so I have quite a few things on my to-do list in lab this week) and I found myself going back into lab as the first pitch was being thrown. Finishing up in lab and running a couple of quick errands left me in the car with Garrett Jones at the plate and Travis Snider on third base in the third inning. Greg Brown and Steve Blass wondered if Joe Kelly was going to pitch to Jones or Pedro Alvarez in that situation. I thought it seemed like a funny question with the havoc that Alvarez has wreaked on the Cardinals this year, but the Cardinals pretty quickly started working around Jones. Kelly got ahead of Alvarez on the first pitch, but then the count swung back in Pedro's favor. 1-1, 2-1, 3-1. I pulled into my driveway just as ball three crossed the plate, and knowing that the delay on the phone app meant that whatever I was hearing was probably a minute in the past already, I knew that I had to stay in the car for the rest of the at-bat. There was just a split second between when Brown announced that Kelly was delivering his 3-1 pitch and his home run call, but in that split second I heard both the crack of the bat and the crowd roar. I knew what was coming next before the home run call even started. It was an incredible rush. 

I've felt for a long time that Pirate fans give Pedro Alvarez a pretty hard time based on all of the drama that surrounded his contract signing and that I'm not entirely certain it's deserved. When I was at spring training in 2010, I remember watching Pedro struggle in a game in Bradenton, getting in the car with my family, driving back to Fort Myers (over an hour) and realizing while I was working on my recap post for the day that Pedro was still in the cages at McKechnie taking batting practice with Clint Hurdle. What's always struck me about Alvarez is that it always seems like he takes every single out that he makes hard. That means that it seems like he beats himself up when he makes an out whether it's in the first inning of a 0-0 game or the ninth inning with the tying run on base; whether he's gone 4-for-4 and he strikes out in his fifth at-bat or he's caught in an 0-for-12 slump. Alvarez wants to be the guy that comes through for the Pirates, but to this point in his career he's had trouble hitting his stride. It always seems to me like he takes that way harder than any Pirate fan ever could. 

That means that I'm not sure I ever remember being happier for an athlete over a performance than I am for Pedro Alvarez right now. With their loss on Monday, the Pirates were backed up to the wall and playing bad baseball and facing what was, for all intents and purposes, elimination from the playoff race. James McDonald and Wandy Rodriguez responded with two huge starts that kept the Cardinals off of the scoreboard for two straight nights, but it was Alvarez's bat that lead the 14-run barrage over those two nights. Since 2008 everyone has been waiting for Alvarez to become The Man; Pirate fans and the Pirates and Alvarez himself all put huge expectations on #24, and it creates a pretty harsh feedback loop when he's not succeeding. With the 2012 season on the line, though, it was Alvarez that delivered. His performance last night was what kept my in the car listening to my phone this evening and his subseqent homer is what really re-ignited the 2012 Pirates' playoff chances, as far as I'm concerned. There's a lot of season left and a lot of evaluating to be done with Alvarez when we get to that point, but when I think back to August 15, 2008, and the way that Pirate fans sat hunched over their computer waiting for news of Alvarez's signing and rejoicing when word came that he'd signed, I'm pretty sure that his performance in these two games is exactly what we were all envisioning that night. 

And for a second night in a row I feel like I'm making a big deal out of Alvarez when there's a whole team that needs discussed. Wandy Rodriguez's Pirate career got off to a tough start, but he gutted out six shutout innings tonight to help Alvarez's homer stand out as a key moment. Rodriguez hasn't been great as a Pirate, but his two best moments (this start and his two inning relief stint to close out the 19-inning game) have been absolutely huge performances when the Pirates need him. Hopefully a start like this will help him settle in as a Pirate and we'll see more of this Wandy as September starts.

On Monday night, the Pirates were three games out of a playoff spot, needing two big performances against the Cardinals to keep their playoff hopes alive. They responded with two wins by a combined total of 14-0. There's a lot of important baseball left to be played in 2012, and now we can be sure that some of it will involve the Pittsburgh Pirates. 

GET THE YARDBARKER APP:
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

USF suspends DB indefinitely for role in shooting, arrest

Elway: Broncos plan to 'stay the course' with Siemian, Lynch

Boykin may have violated probation, could face jail time

Six reasons Raiders' move to Las Vegas will be awesome

Kraft: Patriots do not intend to trade Malcolm Butler

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

Brandon Marshall talks about how he can help Odell Beckham

Scherzer makes Tebow look silly in spring training at-bat

Lonzo Ball discusses headlines his father creates

Laettner taunts Kentucky after Elite Eight heartbreaker

Chargers finally sell out season tickets after two months

Report: Heat still hoping to trade Chris Bosh

Best, worst and hard to stomach MLB offseason moves

The 28 craziest ballpark foods for the 2017 season

The Rewind: George Mason's improbable run to the Final Four

Baseball movies you can stream now to hold you over until Opening Day

Best of Yardbarker: Did Team USA's victory save the World Baseball Classic?

Breaking down the Naismith Award race

Box Score 3/24: Waiting on West Virginia

Eat, Drink, Watch: Weekends are for upsets

The 'Once again, Barry Bonds is the best power hitter in San Francisco' quiz

With Team USA's victory, World Baseball Classic (finally) lived up to its potential

The NFL distraction playbook

Which Sweet 16 team should you be rooting for?

MLB News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
the YARDBARKER app
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

Best, worst and hard to stomach MLB offseason moves

The Rewind: George Mason's improbable run to the Final Four

Baseball movies you can stream now to hold you over until Opening Day

Best of Yardbarker: Did Team USA's victory save the World Baseball Classic?

Breaking down the Naismith Award race

Eat, Drink, Watch: Weekends are for upsets

The 'Once again, Barry Bonds is the best power hitter in San Francisco' quiz

The NFL distraction playbook

With Team USA's victory the WBC (finally) lived up to its potential

The Aesthetic: The world of player exclusive sneakers

Today's Best Stuff
For Publishers
Company Info
Help
Follow Yardbarker