Tonight’s American League wild-card game has a lot to live up to.
About two hours away from Cleveland, the Pittsburgh Pirates won their first postseason game on Tuesday night, and what a scene it was.
Television doesn’t always capture the emotions and enthusiasm of a crowd, but this time it did. After 21 years of lousy baseball, Pirates fans had lots to celebrate about, and they were into the game from the first pitch.
It reminded me a lot of the crowds at Oriole Park last year who had put up with 14 losing seasons. These guys put up with half again as many.
Not generally a fan of “sideline reporters,” I was charmed by the interview with the 95-year-old usher at PNC park who’d been on the job since 1936, and I felt the joy of those long-suffering Burghers.
The Pirates and the Orioles share some common ground, the painful losses dealt in the 1971 and 1979 World Series. And, during spring training, the teams, whose facilities are located 20 minutes apart, play often.
A lot of those names on the Pirates were familiar because they’d faced the Orioles so often. Next year, besides spring training, the teams will play two game home-and-home series in April and May.
As for the Indians and Tampa Bay Rays, the Orioles are certainly familiar with Tampa Bay.
They lost 13 of 19 to the Rays, including that painful four-game sweep at Tropicana Field last month. The Orioles dropped four of seven to Cleveland, losing two of three in early September.
David Price’s masterpiece against Texas on Monday saved Joe Maddon’ worn-out bullpen. Maddon will pitch the very tough Alex Cobb, who is 3-0 with a 1.77 ERA against the Orioles while the Indians have rookie Danny Salazar, a strikeout pitcher, who’s started 10 games.
Salazar has pitched into the seventh inning just once, so manager Terry Francona is likely to use a number of pitchers.
Cleveland has seen playoff more recently than Pittsburgh. They’ve been in seven since the Pirates’ last one, but not since 2007. Their crowds haven’t been as large and enthusiastic as the ones in Pittsburgh.
The winner faces Boston in a five-game Divisional Series beginning Friday.