It’s twenty-five degrees outside. There’s snow on the ground. The sky is dark by 6pm.
But every Monday from now until March 11, for a few hours, Pirates fans are able to escape this dismal winter and remember the joys of the summer and a Pirates season that had us all hoping until the very end.
The date was April 8, 2012, just the 3rd game of the year. The starting pitcher was James McDonald; the opponent was the Phillies. JMac pitched 6 innings, throwing just 82 pitches and giving up just 2 runs, both earned. He gave up just 4 hits and walked 2. This was the JMac who lasted about half of the 2012 season and the one the Pirates need back so desperately. Whether it was a mental issue or an issue of fatigue, hopefully JMac can regain his form and make a return to his early 2012 form to start – and complete – the 2013 season. Jared Hughes also pitched in that game. He pitched 1 inning and gave up 2 unearned runs on a hit and 2 walks. Two former Pirates pitched a perfect inning each. Evan Meek, now a Texas Ranger, pitched a perfect 8th inning and struck out 1. Joel Hanrahan, now a member of the Boston Red Sox, pitched a perfect 9th inning and struck out 2.
A Pedro Alvarez homerun started off the Pirates’ scoring in the 5th inning. It was Alvarez’s first homer of the year; he went on to hit 30. Another former Pirate, Casey McGehee, drove in the Pirates’ 2nd run of the game in the 7th inning. McGehee will start the 2013 season in Japan. Alex Presley singled in McGehee, and Matt Hague singled in the 4th and tying run in the 8th inning. Matt Hague was designated for assignment at the end of 2012 and will start the 2013 season with AAA Indianapolis.
The game on April 7th ended in a walkoff win; why should the 8th be any different? Casey McGehee led off the 9th with a double and was replaced by pinch runner Josh Harrison. Alex Presley bunted JHay over to 3rd, Jose Tabata struck out on a foul tip, and then Andrew McCutchen came to bat. Cutch battled from an 0-2 count to a full count before smacking the ball to center field over Shane Victorino‘s head. JHay scored to make the Pirates’ young record stand at 2 and 1.
It was just a glimpse of the season Andrew McCutchen went on to have. Thirty-one homeruns and 96 RBIs, along with 20 stolen bases and a .327 average, gave Cutch a 3rd-place finish for the National League Most Valuable Player Award. Cutch is still young; 2013 could be even better.
Escaping from winter, cold, real life, and work was nice for a few hours. Next week, AJ Burnett makes his Pirates debut. Rod Barajas looks to be the catcher.