Kovacevic: Fistful of reasons to keep faith
What, so that's it?
Or, as a noted Greek philosopher from the House of Animal once observed, “What's all this lyin' around stuff?”
To see all the long faces dragging, to hear all the loud noise dimmed in and around PNC Park right after Andrew McCutchen's popup ended the Pirates' Game 4 loss to the Cardinals on Monday … you'd think the National League Division Series had just been lost. Saw one guy in a Clemente jersey leaning on a street light, staring into space. Saw two others embracing and consoling as if at a funeral.
All the joy had been wiped out, all the Jolly Rogers lowered to half-mast.
Tough, tough thing to watch. Really was.
And, honestly, hard to justify. I mean, there will still be a Game 5 Wednesday, right?
And the Pirates will have a chance to win it, right?
I'd say so, and here are five reasonable reasons why ...
5. No Michael Wacha.
Not much to analyze about Game 4. Wacha, the Cardinals' terrific 22-year-old, absolutely crushed the Pirates. Pinpointed fastballs. Pounded with changeups. Showed poise well beyond his — and apparently Johnny Cueto's — ears.
“This place was loud. My ears are still ringing,” St. Louis manager Mike Matheny said, and you couldn't tell if he was kidding. “But the kid stayed his course, trusted himself.”
No matter what the Pirates see in Game 5 from Adam Wainwright, a superlative pitcher in his own right, it can't possibly be at that level.
4. Lessons learned.
The Pirates were set down by Wainwright, too, in Game 1. But unlike Wacha's aftermath — where all concerned just glowed about him — the immediate Wainwright aftermath was all about regret. They swung at too many curveballs, fell behind in counts, “got away from our plan,” as McCutchen put it that day.
“Just having seen him is going to be a big help for us, I think,” Neil Walker said. “We'll have a better feel.”
3. Gerrit Cole.
The Cardinals will have the same benefit from having faced Cole in Game 2. But Clint Hurdle's call for Cole over A.J. Burnett, which he announced after the game Monday, wasn't just a good one but the only one.
Sure, Hurdle called it “a very hard decision,” and one can only imagine the tension in that meeting when Burnett was told. It had to be the most gut-wrenching moment of Hurdle's tenure here.
But Burnett didn't just have a bad day in Game 1 with those seven runs in two-plus innings. He also disclosed that he “couldn't repeat a single delivery” and other flashing red sirens. He was a total mess.
Cole, of course, was anything but with a six-inning line of one run, two hits and five strikeouts. And I think he'll be fine going right back out for Game 5. Fact is, you can see the same guy 30 times a year and it doesn't matter much if he throws 100 mph.
2. Pedro Alvarez.
What we're seeing now from El Toro reminds me of Manny Sanguillen's words while watching his first professional batting practice in Bradenton: “I know that swing. That's Willie.”
This playoff Alvarez is having, including home runs off Wacha and Wainwright, is simply Stargell-esque.
Now, just move him up to cleanup. That's all.
1. It's what they do.
I asked Starling Marte if the Pirates will win Game 5 and loved his no-hesitation response: “We have to.”
That's right: They have to.
And how have the Pirates fared all through this magical summer when they've had to?
When a losing streak threatened to stretch too long?
When they went into Cincinnati and needed two of three for home field in the wild card, then swept?
When the Reds came here and … you know?
Aren't we all a little tired of looking foolish every time we doubt this team?