They say that one man can make a difference, whether it's in sports or in real life, but I can tell you that nobody outside of maybe the Pittsburgh Pirates organization thought that the addition of Clint Hurdle as manager would make that much of a difference in a team that hadn't had a winning season since 1992.
Guess we all should have.
The Pirates, the number 1 story in baseball this year, are three games above .500 for the first time since 1992 and are only one game out of first place in the National League Central. They have been getting great performances out of their pitchers and timely hitting from their players. But it's been Hurdle who has been the glue to a team that has sent 10 players to the DL and has kept winning behind rookie bats.
“Just holding it together with chewing gum, chicken wire and duct tape,” manager Clint Hurdle said with a smile
The new winning ways of the Pirates, including taking 2 out of 3 against the Boston Red Sox last weekend, haven't gone unnoticed in the city of Pittsburgh. They are drawing in levels of crowds that have been unheard of in the recent past. In fact, their sellout against Houston on Monday represented the fourth straight game sold out at PNC Park, something that had never been done in Pirates history for over 30 years.
"This was a Pittsburgh sellout," second baseman Neil Walker said. "Definitely a lot of black and gold."
Everyone, even myself included to some degree, keep waiting for this Cinderella story to turn into a pumpkin but these Bucco's keep proving it's not midnight yet day after day and the way they are playing, twelve o'clock just might never get here. This realization has both players and fans alike nearly giddy with anticipation for the rest of the season, something that Pittsburgh baseball fans haven't had much experience with for quite a while.
"In September it will be a lot more fun," Paul Maholm said after winning Monday. "But for any of us who have been here, it's uncharted waters."
Can the Pirates end with a winning season? Can they grab a wild card spot? Even better and more unbelievable, can they win the Central?
I can't answer any of these, nobody can at this point, but damn, isn't it nice to be able to ask these questions with a straight face in July.
Photo Credit – AP