It didn't take the Pittsburgh Pirates one season to make it to the playoffs in 2013, it took them 20 seasons. Every draft pick, every free agency signing, every salary dump for the last 20 years lead up to their loss to the St. Louis Cardinals in game five of the National League Division Series. Twenty years of suffering, fighting, and losing lead up to GERRIT COLE BEING PULLED FROM THE GAME IN THE SIXTH INNING IN A DO-OR-DIE GAME AGAINST THEIR BITTER RIVALS.
As not just a fan of the Pirates, but a fan of baseball, how in the world do you pull Gerrit Cole after only five innings? At that point in the game, it was still a pitchers' duel. Cole gave up the two-run homer to David Freese, but other than that, he was pitching a solid game. Not to mention, Cole is a pretty decent batter. Once Barmes reached base on a single to start the top of the sixth inning, Gerrit Cole should have bunted him over to second, and then gone out to pitch the sixth, seventh, eight, and ninth innings. I love the Pirates' "Shark Tank" bullpen, but I didn't want to see any of them last night. Not after watching how much passion and pride Cole was pitching with last night.
Too many innings have been watched, too much money has been spent, too much time has been spent rooting for the Pirates to have their best pitcher pulled before the sixth inning. When he was pulled from the game, I felt a little bit of baseball die. No longer will we get to see grit. No more blood. Two starting pitchers will never battle it out until the lights go out. All we get to see now are pitch counts, match-ups, sabermetrics, and "saving him for the future".
Let's talk about repercussions from last night, shall we? A.J. Burnett was skipped in the rotation so Gerrit Cole could start game five. A.J. Burnett, who has anchored the Pirates' staff for two seasons, was skipped so a rookie could start in his place. Gerrit Cole, the Rookie, is considered the Pirates' best chance to win. He's pulled after five strong innings of pitching. If I'm Burnett, I want to see the "best chance" give the Pirates' their best chance to win, which is what he was doing until he was prematurely pulled from the game. If I'm Hurdle, I tell Gerrit Cole before the game that he's pitching nine innings, and that this is his game to win. I put all of my money on Cole. All in! Every last chip. Instead, Hurdle upsets the anchor of the staff, Burnett, and then doesn't allow his risk to ever pay off. Who knows what would have happened if Cole stayed in the game, but at least go down with the ship, Captain Hurdle.
It's all very exhausting. Twenty years of Pirates' baseball lead up to game five of the NLDS to have their best chance to win pulled after five innings. After all of this time, money, and energy spent rooting for a losing team, I felt like I deserved to see Gerrit Cole pitch until he couldn't pitch anymore. I deserved the pitchers' duel. The city of Pittsburgh deserved the Pitchers' duel. Gerrit Cole deserved the pitchers' duel. A.J. Burnett deserved to watch the pitchers' duel. The St. Louis Cardinals deserved the pitchers' duel. Adam Wainwright, who pitched all nine innings, deserved the pitchers' duel. Every fan of baseball...deserved the pitchers' duel! Game five of the NLDS could have gone down as a classic, but instead it will be seen as just another win for the Cardinals, and just another loss for the Pirates. It's still a losing season if you don't win the World Series.