Mon Valley Pirates fans disappointed in playoff loss, but revel in surprise season
Local residents who gathered to watch Wednesday night when the Pirates lost to the St. Louis Cardinals concurred it was a bittersweet evening.
Bitter because the Pirates' season ended in a 6-1 loss to their National League Central Division rivals; sweet because Pittsburgh fans once again got a taste of postseason baseball.
Freddy Naccarato, 64, took in the action with friends at the Italian Society of Mutual Aid in Monessen. He was not only watching the game, but looking at the big picture of the state of Pirates baseball.
“I go back to the early '60s when baseball was the thing in Pittsburgh and the Steelers were an afterthought,” he said. “It's good they came back and made (the playoffs) again in my lifetime.”
At the other end of the bar, Amanda Higgins, 34, exhibited her retro gold Pirates shirt that declared “We Are Family,” in block letters. Never mind, the Monessen resident was a year old when the Pirates rode that slogan to their last World Series title in 1979.
“You didn't want to be in this situation where you're playing against an experienced team in their own park,” Higgins said.
“The Pirates had a chance to win (the series) at home and that's where you want to get it done — at home. They had their chance (Monday).”
Two seats down, her brother, Matthew Higgins, glanced up grimly at the television set. Higgins gave St. Louis credit — particularly the nifty glove work displayed by Cardinals shortstop Pete Kozma.
“St. Louis is playing awesome baseball, and their fielding is incredible tonight — but hey, at least we're hitting the ball hard,” he said. “Any way you slice it, the season was a success. You really couldn't have asked for more from this team.
“The pitching was incredible all year, the defense was there, and their bats were on-point when they needed to be.”
Higgins lamented that the Pirates could only scrape together two runs in back-to-back losses to the Cards to end the season.
“There's not much you can do when your bats go cold,” he said. “That's what did them in.”
There was a slight glimmer of hope when Pirates shortstop Clint Barmes laced a single to left to lead off the sixth inning, garnering some applause from several seated at the bar.
A few patrons shouted with excitement when Garrett Jones followed with a drive to center field, but the ball landed harmlessly in the glove of Cardinals' outfielder John Jay.
“Ahhhhh,” Naccarato lamented. “It looked good coming off the bat, didn't it?”
Across the John K. Tener Memorial Bridge at the River House Cafe in Charleroi, eight women continually interrupted their Wednesday night Euchre game to peer at the television above.
Rita Lindsay, 84, of Carroll Township admitted she had already delayed several hands of her card game to catch the action. Lindsay said, on any other night, she'd have been home glued to the TV.
“I love the Pirates, … It's been too long since they've been in this kind of spotlight,” she said.
Lindsay and her cohorts stopped their game and cheered when Pedro Alvarez lined an RBI single down the first base line, scoring Justin Morneau, as the Pirates cut the lead to 3-1. But the two tables collectively groaned as Pittsburgh catcher Russell Martin bounced into a fielder's choice to end the threat.
“We needed a home run,” Lindsay stated. “That was our chance.”
How right she was.
As the Cardinals continue on their quest for a World Series championship, Mid-Mon Valley Pirates fans will have to wait for spring training in 2014.
But Naccarato, for one, enjoyed the ride in 2013.
“It's going to hurt tonight,” Naccarato said, “But tomorrow we'll be glad they got this far.”
Rick Bruni Jr. is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 724-684-2635.