Last year a 19 inning game sunk the Pirates. Maybe this year a 19 inning game will propel them.
On July 26, 2011, the Pittsburgh Pirates were amazingly tied for first place. Out of nowhere the hapless Bucs were playing like champs.
That night they locked horns with the franchise that broke their fans' hearts back in 1992, the Atlanta Braves. The two teams fought in what was the equivalent of two games. In the 19th inning, Pirates catcher Michael McKenry tagged out Atlanta runner Julio Lugo at the plate for the second out of the inning.
The one problem was that umpire Jerry Meals called Lugo safe and a wonderful game ended on a horrifically bad call. According to ESPN.com, even the MLB offices acknowledged the call was blown.
The Pirates fell out of first. They lost the next day in extra innings. Then the Pirates went on a horrifying freefall.
The team that was six games over .500 and had a share of first place, but lost 12 of their next 13 games and fell five games under .500. Eventually, the potentially wonderful season of redemption turned into yet another losing season.
After the Jerry Meals call, the 2011 Pirates went 19-42 the rest of the way, the worst in the National League for the final two months.
Well perhaps in yesterday's marathon game in St. Louis is was appropriate that Juan Cruz blew a 17th inning lead and forced the game to go longer. Maybe the Pirates needed to wipe the Meals call out completely.
Pedro Alvarez homered, Andrew McCutchen drove in two more and Wandy Rodriguez got the 6-3 19 inning win out of the bullpen.
The Meals game was on their mind. According to MLB.com, Pedro Alvarez said: "We've been on the losing side of 19. It's deflating."
If losing after 19 innings put the Pirates in a tailspin, what would winning after 19 frames do?
For the Pirates, still fighting for the Division, maybe they will go on a tear. With upcoming games against the Padres and the injured Brewers, they could be on their way to a big winning streak.
Jerry Meals is probably hoping they are. It will let him off the hook.