Friday, April 04, 2008

Here's how it would happen: August and September 2008

I honestly think the Pirates have no chance to contend or even finish .500 this year, but the truth is that there must be some sequence of events, no matter how improbable, that can take place that would bring home an NL Central pennant for the Bucs in 2008. It's probably just because I've watched too much LOST lately, but I'm going to write a series of flash-forwards dealing with the one alternate dimension in a million in which the Pirates win the NL Central in 2008. Someone hit the gas on the infinite improbability drive ...

I had hoped to finish this before the season, but let's knock the rest of it out of the park tonight. We're only taking this to the end of the regular season. You can use your imagination from there if you like. Anyways, the Bucs finished up July at 59-48, tied with the Brewers and two games ahead of the Cubs. If you've missed the earlier editions and are just starting now, check out April, May, June and July.

August 3rd- The Pirates lose to the Cubs 3-1, losing the early August series to the Cubbies 2 games to 1. That puts the Brewers in first place, one game ahead of the Pirates (now 60-50), and two ahead of the Cubs.
WHYGAVS: Buckle, up. If the Pirates are somehow winning this thing it's gonna be one helluva ride from here on out. This division is a three team race and it's going to be that way for the long haul. Really, we should just be excited that it's a three team race because we are definitely the third wheel here. But hey, this is no race compared to superbike racing, am I right?

August 8th- Jason Bay hits his 25th homer as the Pirates (62-52) beat the Phillies 5-3 and pull back even with the D'Backs. Ian Snell gets his 13th win of the year.
WHYGAVS: It's really uncanny. Every single time I think that the Pirates might be getting ready to drop out of this thing, they come roaring back with a huge performance from someone and get a big win.

August 16th- In what is probably the game of the year at PNC Park, Tom Gorzelanny and Oliver Perez lock horns and trade strikeouts and zeros for eight innings in a battle of first place teams. Through eight, Perez strikes out 14 and Gorzo strikes out a career high 10. Carlos Beltran homers off of Gorzo in the top of the ninth, but the Pirates tie it in the bottom half of the inning when Nyjer Morgan hits a pinch-hit double for Gorzelanny, then scores from second on a fly out hit by Nate McLouth to Moises Alou, who takes his time getting the ball back into the infield after tracking the ball down in the gap. The game ends in the 13th when Jack Wilson draws a bases loaded walk from Jorge Sosa. The Pirates move to 66-55.
WHYGAVS: Some nights you can sit down and watch a baseball game and know right away that it's going to be special. Tonight was one of those nights. Gorzo and Ollie combined to throw 17 pitches to set down their respective opponents in order in the first inning with a combined four strikeouts. They cruised unlike any duo I've seen at PNC since maybe the first time Ollie emerged. In the fall when the Steelers win a close game, I always like to say that "That's the type of game that a good team finds a way to win." I'm still surprised I'm saying this, but this game tonight was a game that a good team finds a way to win, and the Pirates pulled this one out.

August 20- The Cardinals destroy a listless Pirates team 10-2, dropping them to 67-58 and out of first place for the first time since the 3rd of the month.
WHYGAVS: It's weird how often the mood of the team can mirror the mood of the fans. We all know that the Pirates are ending this month with 9 games against the Brewers and Cubs and the team certainly played like they know it, as well. Dropping out of first sucks, but they'll certainly get their chance to fight their way back.

August 24th- Pirates (68-60) lose to the Brewers 2-0, dropping the series and falling 2 games behind the division pace.
WHYGAVS: Sometimes you run into a buzzsaw, and that's what Ben Sheets was tonight. I always say at FanHouse that the key to the Brewers winning the division is a healthy Sheets and it's easy to see why. He's been healthy this year and the Brewers are in first place. Sometimes things really are that simple.

August 27th- In front of a capacity crowd at PNC, Aramis Ramirez boots a ground ball
with the go ahead run on third and the Pirates win 4-3 in the bottom of the ninth to take two from the Cubs.
WHYGAVS: There are moments in life that I feel certain that karma must exist. Jack Wilson scorching a ground ball through Aramis Ramirez's legs is one of them.

August 31st- Nate McLouth hits his 18th home run of the season to give the Pirates a 6-5 lead over the Brewers in the bottom of the eight. Matt Capps nails down the save to close out the sweep of the Brewers and put the Pirates one game ahead of the Brewers (and 3 ahead of the Cubs) for the division, closing August out at 73-61.
WHYGAVS: What a huge win for the Pirates. I mean, really, this team just keeps taking things to another level every time the situation demands it. There's one month left to go and the Pirates are in first place? Is this a dream? If it is, please don't spoil my day, I'm miles away, and after all, I'm only sleeping.

September: (sorry, we're gonna do some skipping ahead, if I don't finish this tonight, real baseball will warp my perception of this team way too much to do this and these things take me forever to write) Through most of the month, the Pirates, Brewers, and Cubs play fairly even baseball and trade places at the top of the division. A late season cold streak brings the Pirates into the final day of the season tied with the Brewers, one game behind the Cubs. The Pirates play in San Diego while the Brewers and Cubs face off in Milwaukee. In the first inning of the Pirates game, Prince Fielder hits a walk-off home run in Milwaukee to defeat the Cubs. Adam LaRoche sees the scoreboard change while in the on-deck circle and promptly hits a grand slam. The Pirates beat the Padres 9-1, creating a three way tie for the divisional lead. A series of coin-tosses creates the three-way playoff system: the Pirates and Brewers play in Milwaukee on Monday, September 29th, the winner then plays the Cubs at home on Tuesday the 30th.

September 29th: Ian Snell dominates the Brewers with a 2-hit shutout, striking out 12 and picking up his 20th win. The Pirates only scrape one run off of Yovani Gallardo when Nate McLouth walks, steals both second and third on Jason Kendall, then scores on Jason Bay's sac fly. In the top of the ninth with a 1-0 lead, Rickie Weeks on first, two outs, and Prince Fielder at the plate, John Russell comes out of the dugout. Snell stares a hole in him as he approaches the mound with Damaso Marte ready in the pen to face the left-handed Fielder. Firm, but not angry words are exchanged, and Snell remains on the mound. He strikes out Fielder with three pitches to clinch the win.
WHYGAVS: Ian Snell might be the ballsiest pitcher in the major leagues. Tonight's game demanded no less than his best tonight, and Snell rewarded us with the single best performance of his short career. He hit 95 on the gun with the last pitch that he blew past the probable NL-MVP Fielder. For two years, we've all admired Snell for his brash nature, but tonight he backed up every word he's said. This is a game that will be remember forever in Pittsburgh Pirate history. Honestly, I want to keep typing, but words don't do this justice. Somehow, we've got to pull ourselves together and do this again tomorrow. I can't wait.

September 30th: It's evident from the get-go that neither Tom Gorzelanny nor Carlos Zambrano have their A-games. The Cubs hang a 3-spot on the Bucs in the first and the Pirates respond with a lead-off homer by McLouth and back-to-back doubles by Bay and LaRoche. Both starters are chased in the third inning as the runs pile up. Going into the bottom of the ninth, the Pirates trail 10-8. Ryan Doumit and Jose Bautista strike out, bringing Jack Wilson to the plate to face Kerry Wood. Jack doubles, pinch-hitter Doug Mientkiewicz draws a walk, and Nate McLouth singles Wilson home and Mientkiewicz to third. With the season on the line, Freddy Sanchez walks into the batters' box. Freddy takes two balls, then a strike. In working the count full from there, he fouls seven pitches off. PNC Park is silent. Wood stares in and on the 13th pitch of the at bat, tries to jam Freddy hard on the hands with a 97 mph fastball. Freddy gets around on it and just drops it over Aramis' Ramirez's head, skipping down the line, bouncing off the abutting stands, and kicking in front of Alfonso Soriano, who has to race way in and comes up throwing. Mientkiewicz scores easily and McLouth flies in head-first under Geovany Soto's tag ... the Pirates beat the Cubs 11-10 and win the NL Central.