Andy Hornak | For The Duquesne Duke
With October around the corner, a cool air chills the city and people prepare for a long winter. Pirates’ fans, however, find warmth in the excitement surrounding their baseball team that has just clinched a playoff berth for the first time since 1992.
The Pirates clinched a playoff berth for the first time in 21 years, beating the Chicago Cubs 2-1 at Wrigley Field this Monday with a finish that had fans holding their breath until the very end.
After Chicago tied the game in the bottom of the eighth, Starling Marte boosted a homerun into the left field seats to give Pittsburgh a 2-1 lead on their way to a champagne celebration in the clubhouse for the first time in two decades.
For some fans, Octobers without baseball is all they’ve known, “It’s the first time they’ve made it since I’ve been alive, that’s pretty awesome to think about,” says Ryan Fish, a senior business major at Duquesne. Since winning 95 games in 1992, the Pirates have left a large generation gap in their fan base that doesn’t know what winning feels like.
Jim Colony, host for Pittsburgh’s 93.7 The Fan’s Morning Show, the flagship station for the Pirates, has been covering the team since the ’91-’92 season and finds a familiar feel in this season’s team.
“It’s a lot of young guys coming up through the system showing what they can do,” he said. “It’s something they’ve been trying for a few years now and it has finally come together.”
The Pirates have sold out a franchise record 20 games this season, adding to the anticipation for the upcoming postseason around the city.
“[The Pirates] covered a bunch of seats in 1992 so empty seats wouldn’t show up on TV,” said Colony of the last playoff push, “I don’t think that’s going to be a problem this year.”
The success of this season paired with the late-season collapses of the past two years leaves some fans wary of what might come in October. “I just don’t want them to fall apart again,” Fish said, “it would crush the city.”
“From what I hear on my show, people are really excited and really nervous at the same time, which is natural,” Colony said. “At any level of any sport, when it comes down to the end, everybody feels nervous.”
And Pirate fans definitely have reason to feel anxious at the end of the season after being 16 games over .500 in August of 2012 and finishing 3 games from breaking even, becoming the first team to be 16 games over .500 after 108 games played and finish with a losing record.
However, some fans think this team is different. “I think they finally have their pieces together,” said Zach Montgomery, a freshman pharmacy major, “They have a great pitching staff and that’s a big difference than in the past.”
The Pirates pitching staff, adding Francisco Liriano in the offseason, has given the Pirates a reliable starter in nearly every game this season with Liriano leading the way with a 16-7 record this season. But run support has been something the Pirates look to gain more of before the start of the postseason Oct. 1.
“It’s unpredictable, Pedro [Alvarez] could get hot next week and hit a few home runs, or he couldn’t – it’s really hard to tell,” Colony said.
He said picking the starter for the first playoff game is a decision that won’t be difficult for the Buccos. “Not to use a cliché, but beggars can’t be choosers. Whoever is pitching best is who they have to go with.”
A lifetime of losing for some has ended after two decades, leaving the new generation of Pirates’ fans longing for a more positive trend. “If they can keep it going, it’ll only get bigger,” Fish said. “They’re finally over the hump.”