In the early morning hours at Turner Field on July 27, 2011, the Atlanta Braves and Pittsburgh Pirates are in the bottom of the 19th inning. A game that both teams, who at this point were in the pennant race need. Pedro Alvarez throws to Micheal McKenry at the plate to easily tag out Julio Lugo. Home plate umpire Jerry Meals made a call that derailed the Pirates 2011 season. A safe call that shocked those watching and the baseball world on every sports show and news program. A devastating blow to a team that almost 19 years earlier saw Sid Bream cross the plate on a close play at home in the National League Championship Series, to send the Braves to the World Series and begin a dynasty in Atlanta, and was the starting point of the Pirates descent into mediocrity. The Pirates never recovered and marked their 19th straight year of losing baseball.
One year and 25 days later, the Pirates are in another long game at Busch Stadium in St. Louis. As the 19th inning approaches, the memory of Jerry Meals reappears. For Pedro Alvarez, the man who made the throw to home on the blown call by Meals, homered to right center field, giving the Pirates a 4-3 lead. It would only be a greater moment if McKenry was the one who hit the home run. With a little insurance from Andrew McCutchen, the Pirates won 6-3 and Wandy Rodriquez got the win, even though he was supposed to start in San Diego tomorrow.
So the curse of Jerry Meals is gone, right? Well, if you believe in curses, it could be reversed. Apart from those who believe in forms of voodoo, the extra, extra inning win could have a positive impact on a squad that has had a bumpy August. The Pirates had a poor showing during their 11 game homestand, going 4-7, almost getting swept by the Padres and Dodgers in the process.
A series in St. Louis against a Cardinal team that has been creeping closer to the Pirates in the wild card race, the Pirates needed their dependable arm from the first half of the year, James McDonald, to pull out of his funk in an important game, in which he did. A Saturday loss that saw so many squandered opportunities with runners in scoring position could have deflated them.
Sunday's extra inning affair saw an opportunity for disaster. The poor base running, bad bunting, basically anything Tabata did and Cruz blowing the lead in the 17th brought out the pessimistic fans of the last two decades. Alvarez, who has been underachieving as of late, went into "Daydro" mode and showed us the Pedro we all love during different periods of the season.
In the last two weeks, the "doom and gloom" reappeared after a bad series of games at home, where the Pirates had been stellar. The memory of Jerry Meals' blown call in 2011's marathon in Atlanta can be eased by the victory today in the "Missouri Marathon." Perhaps it was destiny that the Pirates didn't win in 17 innings. Maybe it's the "what goes around, comes around" way of thinking. If any of these scenarios make you feel better about the rest of the pennant race, that's great. Even if you think the Pirates have been cursed over the last 20 years, it's been easier than being a Red Sox fan from 1918 to 2004 or a Cubs fan over the last century don't you think?
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