Friday, July 22, 2011
Biggest Game 1 in PNC Park history?
I imagine the crowd outside of PNC Park will look more like a Steelers home game. A hot Friday night in Pittsburgh will pale in comparison to the energy that will walk through the turnstiles to watch ace Paul Maholm take on Chris Carpenter.
But this is the Pirates' opportunity. They are three games into a stretch that the pundits say will expose them of benefitting from a weak division and just plain luck to be in a tie for first place in the NL Central. They scored just four runs in three games and won two of them. That anemic offense won't do against the Cardinals.
But sending Maholm out for Game 1 may help. His 0.88 ERA in his last five home starts and career 3.33 ERA againt the Cardinals give the Bucs a fighting chance. They beat Carpenter already this season in St. Louis. Even more shocking is the 24-14 record against its division foes.
The Bucs are fighting the tradition that they are supposed to roll over for a team like the Cardinals. They avoided a June swoon and are in the thick of it. The city has returned to the ballpark but the national media continues to treat this team like a cute little puppy that will eventually run away. This is their chance. After the Cardinals series, the Braves will host Pittsburgh, including an ESPN game. THen three more in Philadelphia against the NL's top team.
Winning this series is an opportunity to keep the momentum going and earn even more respect. But giving up a big lead early in Game 1 allows the doubters to creep in, gives the naysayers ammunition and the attitude of being a loser begins to be talked about.
Game 1 is the key in every series, but this one may be the most important in a long, long time.