Pirates, fans celebrate Game 3 win against Cards
October baseball returns to the North Shore.
The Pirates host games three and four of the National League Division Series on Sunday and Monday, and in doing so face more challenges than simply the St. Louis Cardinals and their league-leading offense. Forecasters say storms are possible both days, and fans will see a dramatic game-time drop in temperatures form the 80s Sunday to the 50s the next day.
Stick with the Trib throughout the day to read about the atmosphere from pregame festivities and the action inside once the first pitch is thrown at 4:37 p.m.
When Jason Grilli retired the final batter in a 5-3 win over the Cardinals, moving the Pirates to within one victory of the National League Championship Series, few people left PNC Park.
Fans screamed, chanted “Let's Go Bucs,” and waved the Jolly Roger as players shook hands on the field. Jim Lamey, 26, of Beaver Falls, who watched the game with a standing-room-only ticket in the left field rotunda, bowed his head and covered his eyes. Relief settled in.
“Amazing. Unbelievable. A dream. I have tears,” an emotional Lamey said. “I don't know what to say. I honestly thought I'd never see this.”
He'll do it again Monday when the Pirates meet the Cardinals for game four in the best-of-five series. The Pirates lead 2-1.
Game four is scheduled to start at 3 p.m. but a cold front accompanied by severe storms could delay the game.
For the second home game in a row, the Pirates set a PNC Park attendance record with 40,489 paid fans.
Fans say there's not a bad seat in the park, even in the upper reaches.
“Best seat in the house,” Bryan Drzewucki, 25, of Cranberry said in section 310 on the first base side. “This is my 73rd game here. I've sat below, by the dugouts. This is the perfect vantage point.”
Hundreds of people remained on Federal Street and the Clemente Bridge even after the game began. They don't have tickets, but just wanted to be near the action and atmosphere.
“It's been pretty much my whole life since this happened,” said Ben Probst, 26, of Greenfield. “We're just hanging out and enjoying the atmosphere.
Probst stood on Federal Street with his 4-month-old daughter Harper.
“I go to two or three games a year but in the past you just went because you live in Pittsburgh,” he said. “It's nice to get something out of it this year.”
As fans poured in to PNC Park, Pirates officials worked to make sure everything was ready.
Weather could be an issue, both Sunday and Monday, but team spokesman Brian Warecki said the organization is prepared to handle any situation.
“Two games in less than 24 hours is something we have done more than 12 times this season,” he said. “This is nothing new and nothing we cannot handle.”
For 16 years, Reggie Howze has worked every Pirates home game, taking up his post on the Clemente Bridge and playing his saxophone.
This is the first time he gets to ply his trade during meaningful October games.
“I like it during playoff time,” Howze, 45, of the Hill District said Sunday while taking a quick break. “16 years I've been here, man. This — this is exciting.”
When joggers pass by, he breaks into the theme music from “Rocky.” When a Cardinals fan enters the picture, he stops playing and begins heckling.
“Hey, St. Louis!” he yelled at one man in a Cards jersey. “No crying in the hotel room tonight! Not allowed!”
Howze said he was a former catching prospect and once tried out for the Pirates. He didn't make it, he said, but he still gets excited for his hometown team.
“We're going all the way,” he said, before breaking into “Take Me Out to the Ball Game.”
“And if you tip the sax man, we'll definitely win!”
As was the case for last week's wild card against the Cincinnati Reds, the visiting team's colors are a rarity in the sea of black-cad fans in the lots around PNC Park.
“At first I thought we'd see a couple thousand Cardinals fans,” said Mark Allen, 56, who traveled from Baltimore with his son Taylor, 21, to watch Sunday's playoff game. “Now I'm not so sure. Maybe 99?”
Allen became a Cardinals fan in 1968 when he watched them beat the Phillies in Philadelphia.
“I liked the birds on the logo,” he said with a shrug. “I was 10 years old.”
The Allens have never been to PNC Park. They expect an electric atmosphere.
“We're definitely getting some ribbing,” Taylor Allen said. “Good-natured, but ribbing. ... So far I've seen maybe 11 other Cards' fans.”