I’d like to preface this post by saying that Twitter user @SkilesRyan is the fucking man. He helped me find the best picture in this post and should be praised like a Greek God.
The odds for the Pirates did not look very good. After a 57-105 record in 2010, the Buccos were expected to improve by about 8 games in 2011, with the over/under for wins set at 66.5. One of the few bright sides pre-2011 was having a full season of Jose Tabata, Pedro Alvarez, and to a lesser extent, Neil Walker. Then April started.
The Pirates got April off on the right foot, winning their 5th straight Opening Day matchup. They went 25-28 through April and May.
Then June happened. Normally the “June Swoon” is what kills the Pirates each year.
2011’s June record was the best it has been since before anything on this table. They went 16-11 through the month of June, raising their record to 41-39, just 2 games back from the Cardinals/Brewers tie for first place. On July 8th, arguably the most symbolic home run for any team in the decade was hit.
This home run was so incredibly symbolic, not because it was McKenry’s first MLB home run, but because it was a rags-to-riches story, just like the Pirates. McKenry had played in 6 MLB games prior to his stint here in Pittsburgh and amassed a whopping 9 plate appearances. I was at that game and it may have been the most thrilling game of baseball I have ever seen the Pirates play (sans the Brian Giles walkoff grand slam on July 28, ’01). On the last day before the All-Star Break, the Buccos beat the Chicago Cubs 9-1, moving within 1 game of the division lead.
Andrew McCutchen, Joel Hanrahan, and Kevin Correia were elected to the All-Star Game, and the only player to not have an opportunity to play was Correia. Long are the days when we would get an All-Star just to have one, a la Zach Duke. On July 15th, 2011, something monumental happened.
Yes, your Pirates, who had not been above .500 at July 15th since July 15, 1997, were in first place, tied with the St Louis Cardinals. And who could ever forget this immortal song:
On July 18th, the Pirates took sole ownership of the first place spot in the National League Central division.
The first two thoughts to pop in my head after I saw that the Pirates were anywhere near first place at this time of the year were both Acid related. The first thing that popped in my head when I saw the above picture was “I thought .20 was Cabrera’s BAC.”
Sportspickle came out with this gold article.
The Pirates stayed within 1 game of first place each day until July 26th, and I think everybody knows what happened that night/morning.
After the entire #JerryMealsSaysItsSafe fiasco, in which I was so livid I woke up my neighbors by screaming at the TV, the Pirates’ pitching staff cooled down and the Pirates went into freefall mode.
The Pirates went 19-42 for the rest of the season and attendance fell and fell and fell until the very end of the season when the gimmicky “Fan Appreciation Day” thing took place. Okay, I went there too, but that was because I was able to get PBC tickets off a scalper.
The Nuttings saw what winning could do to the asses in the seats and how much more money they would be able to make, so hopefully they learn their lesson and spend more money on players so that they can field a competitive team.
Once again, please, please follow Twitterer @SkilesRyan.