Cardiac Cards earn 99th win in 9-inning thriller

What it was like to wear red in a sea of black and gold

By Kevin Spradlin
PeeDeePost.com

* Video: ‘Let’s go Pedro!’ Alvarez flies out with bases loaded
* Video: Piscotty collides with Bourjos
* Video: Mark Reynolds’ 2-run HR
* Video: Heyward’s outfield assist
* Game wrap-ups: Pittsburgh Post Gazette / St. Louis Post-Dispatch / MLB.com

PITTSBURGH, Pa. — Say it ain’t so.

That’s how Pittsburgh fans had to be feeling after their Pirates lost 3-0 to National League Central rival St. Louis on Monday night at PNC Park in Pittsburgh.

I knew that by the time my 13-year-old daughter and I had walked down from Section 142, Row K, Seats 11 and 12 inside PNC Park in Pittsburgh to the main concourse towards the exit, there were already post-game stories and videos posted online by multiple news outlets. I knew that by the time we made our way across one of Pittsburgh’s many bridges and to our truck a short distance away, those stories would have been updated with deeper analysis and comments from players and team managers.

A fellow fan - but rooting for the Pirates - offers to take our picture outside PNC Park on Monday in Pittsburgh.

A fellow fan – but rooting for the Pirates – offers to take our picture outside PNC Park on Monday in Pittsburgh.

As a former journalist, I appreciated the deadline-oriented nature with which the writers sped to get a few graphs into the public domain. After all, St. Louis won its 99th game of the year with a 3-0 thriller. Through eight innings, neither team could plate a run — but the Pirates had to be shaking their heads in disbelief. For the game, they went 0-for-12 with runners in scoring position and stranded 13 baserunners through the first eight frames (and 16 overall). Pittsburgh batters were 0-for-4 with the bases loaded.

But I wasn’t at the ballpark on Monday as a sportswriter. I was there as a dad — despite it being a school night, MacKenzie had been looking forward to the game for a couple of weeks — and as a fan of the game — one of the few wearing red in a sea of black and gold. In our section, I’m pretty sure I was the only one wearing Cardinal red. It was rather intimidating, but I “hid” the Cardinal-supporting side of the red in my Team Red, White and Blue hooded sweatshirt. Team RWB is a nonprofit service organization that aims to help veterans transition from the military to civilian life through mental, physical and social activities.

While wearing Team RWB gear over the past few years, I’ve become accustomed to getting questions and offering answers about the organization.  No such questions came at me Monday — there was a baseball game on — but I wouldn’t have been at the game at all without Team RWB, as I’d received the tickets from a member of the Western Pennsylvania chapter.

This screenshot from a Major League Baseball video of Mark Reynolds' two-run homer in the ninth inning shows, in the top right corner, me and my Cardinal red Team RWB hoodie — sitting in a sea of black and gold.

This screenshot from a Major League Baseball video of Mark Reynolds’ two-run homer in the ninth inning shows, in the top right corner, me and my Cardinal red Team RWB hoodie — sitting in a sea of black and gold.

The game had it all — including a happy ending if you’re a Cardinals fan like me. Centerfielder Jason Heyward threw out Starling Marte to complete a double play and end a Pirates rally in the second; relief pitcher (and former Pinecrest <N.C.> High School standout Seth Maness got out of a bases loaded jam … and plenty more. The saddest part — if you’re a Pirates fan — happened in the top of the ninth, when Matt Carpenter scored on a misplayed fly to right field. Gregory Polanco attempted to scoop up the ball on the run — but missed, and Carpenter hurried home for the first run of the game.

Slugger Mark Reynolds — who came to the plate as I whispered into Kenzie’s ear, “he hits a sh**-ton of homers, but he also strikes out a lot — followed with a two-run home for a 3-0 lead.

The bottom of the ninth was fantastic, but somehow Trevor Rosenthal and the Cardinals worked their magic for Rosenethal’s franchise record-setting 48th save of the season, the Cardinals’ 99th win — leaving them one shy of another NL Central division title.

A beautiful night at PNC Park.

A beautiful night at PNC Park.

Kenzie’s stomach was tied up in knots throughout most of the last three innings. While the competition was the bulk of it, the outfield collision between Cardinals’ left fielder Stephen Piscotty and center fielder Peter Bourjos — Piscotty was carted off the field on a stretcher — showed me something pretty great about Pirates fans. After a delay of several minutes — during which Piscotty lay in the outfield grass motionless — he gestured towards the crowd. What he offered might have been an attempt at a thumbs-up, but in reality mirrored the type of salute for which General MacArthur was famous — you know, something in the general vicinity of his forehead.

It was close enough for the crowd, though, which offered Piscotty a standing ovation as he lay on the back of a cart strapped to the stretcher and was wheeled around to the exit. Pirates fans wanted to win but as the gentleman one row behind me (and two seats to my left) said — perhaps to everyone — “not like this.” It was the type of collision, Bourjos’ knee to Piscotty’s head, that one usually doesn’t see on a baseball field.

MacKenzie after the win.

MacKenzie after the win.

Even after Carpenter scored for a 1-0 lead, then Mark Reynolds added a homer for a 3-0 advanrage, Kenzie didn’t settle much. She let loose the grip on my arm, but only by a little. And that’s good, because the bottom of the ninth inning was as exciting as any half frame in baseball this season. Her smile after the 27th and final Pittsburgh out was as much relief and exhaustion as joy in victory.

We finished the two-hour drive home at about 1:15 Tuesday morning. We hurried to our respective bedrooms; after all, the alarm clock was set to blare only a few hours later to begin the regular school/work day.

The game was a fantastic experience, my first in PNC Park — and hopefully not the last. #GoCards

Kevin Spradlin is a former journalist with more than 20 years in the business. He lives with his wife and children in the mountain city of Frostburg, Md., two hours outside of Pittsburgh.

 

 

Filed in: Featured News, Latest Headlines, Opinion, Sports

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