Pirates complete largest comeback in team history with 13-12 win over Reds Saturday night
Someone needs to tell these young 2023 Pittsburgh Pirates that they’re supposed to be cannon fodder in the final days of the National League wildcard race.
After forging an early 9-0 lead in front of the home folks at Great American Ball Park, the Reds, who began Saturday’s action 1.5 games out of the third wildcard spot, probably thought these pesky Buccos finally knew their place in the food chain.
The Pirates had the audacity to win a close matchup between the two teams on Friday night, but Saturday was quickly shaping up as a “get right” affair for Cincinnati.
Until it wasn’t.
The Reds and their fans may still have felt at ease after Pittsburgh put a run on the scoreboard in the fourth inning to make it 9-1. But that tension no doubt began to build a while later when Bryan Reynolds capped a five-run sixth inning with a two-out, three-run home run to pull the visitors to within three.
Do they sell anti-anxiety meds at Great American Ball Park? The home folks probably needed them one inning later when the Pirates completed the comeback with three runs in the seventh on a double by first baseman Alfonso Rivas. The Reds surely needed them in the eighth when the Pirates plated four more runs to take a 13-9 lead.
Cincinnati didn’t go away quietly, however, and scored a run in the bottom of the eighth inning to make it 13-10.
The Reds scored two more runs in the bottom of the ninth inning to make it 13-12 and had the tying run on third with only one out.
Fortunately for the Pirates, Carmen Mlodzinski, who came on to close out the ninth in place of the unavailable David Bednar, struck out Elly De La Cruz on 11 pitches and got Jonathan India to fly out to center to end the game.
As per the title of this article, it was the largest Pirates comeback in their rich and lengthy history.
Perhaps fittingly, Saturday was Jim Rooker’s 81st birthday. Rooker, a former Pirates pitcher and broadcaster, once decided to walk from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh due to a comment he made during a game involving the Pirates and Phillies at old Veterans Stadium on June 8, 1989. The Pirates exploded for ten runs in the top of the first inning, and Rooker, who was a color analyst for the game, said, “If we don’t win this one, I don’t think I’d want to be on the plane ride home. Matter of fact, if we don’t win, I’ll walk back to Pittsburgh.”
The Pirates, in fact, went on to lose, 15-11, and Rooker fulfilled his promise after the season (for charity, mind you) by walking 300-plus miles from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh over the course of two weeks.
Speaking of that ’89 Pirates team, it had more downs than ups, mostly due to injuries, but the talent was in place for a great run of success in the early-’90s.
Can the same be said about these 2023 Pirates?
That remains to be seen. Some have said the two months baseball fans should be the most weary of are April and September because what they see may not be a true representation of the caliber of team they’re supporting.
But there is something to be said for a young and talented team growing and gelling together. Maybe these Pirates are simply doing that in September and will prove to be the real deal in 2024 and beyond.
The Reds know what’s real, though: That 9-0 lead they just blew in the middle of a tight playoff race. If they fail to make the postseason by the slimmest of margins (the loss to the Pirates dropped them to 2.5 games back of the sixth seed in the National League), their fans may prefer that they exit Great American Ball Park at season’s end and keep on walking until they’re out of their lives forever.