Just like during the Pirates' wild-card victory two nights earlier, there was electricity in the air over PNC Park as hundreds of fans watched Pittsburgh play St. Louis on a giant projection screen Thursday on Federal Street on the North Shore.
Unfortunately, it was the weather, not a sportscaster's metaphor.
Thunder, lightning and heavy rain delivered the coup de grace for many fans, most of whom stayed put to watch a game that had spiraled out of control by the end of the third inning, when the Cardinals lit up Pirates pitcher A.J. Burnett for seven runs en route to a 9-1 win in Game 1 of the National League Division Series.
Childhood friends Zack Eaton, 24, and James Murphy, 26, were the last men sitting, hanging out under umbrellas until the 15-by-20 foot screen set up for the viewing party was shut off shortly after 7:30 p.m.
"We're committed," Mr. Eaton said. "I was going to watch the rest of the game. I don't care what was coming down."
Others were driven away by a deluge of runs from the Cardinals, who took an early 7-0 lead that proved insurmountable. The third inning was a chorus of groans that started after Cardinals outfielder Carlos Beltran smashed a three-run homer to right field and continued as St. Louis added four more runs in quick succession.
"We'll watch the rest of it at home," said Shawn Adams of Braddock, who brought his 15-year-old son, Stephen, and 20-year-old daughter, Haley, to watch the game outside PNC, which opened up shops and restaurants to create a game-day atmosphere.
"A.J.'s got to do better," a disappointed Stephen said.
The family hadn't given up on the series, however, with Game 2 today in St. Louis and another watch party planned at PNC Park.
"We'll pull it together," Haley said.
Ron Collins, 52, a longtime Pirates fan and bookstore manager from Scott, shook his head as he took down stats from the game in a notebook.
"The same old Bucs came back," Mr. Collins said. "They had to come down somehow after the excitement of the wild card game. And they came down hard."
With the Pirates playing in the postseason for the first time in 21 years, there was heady optimism outside the ballpark before the game went off the rails and the warm fall night gave way to a soaking downpour.
Adam Miller, 23, of Munhall was decked out in the eye-catching black-and-gold floppy hat and matching overalls that he bought about three years ago in the Strip District.
"It is my Pittsburgh postseason apparel," Mr. Miller said. The outfit has been broken out for playoff appearances by the Penguins and the Steelers but never for the city's professional baseball club.
"I'm glad I finally got it out to all the teams," he said.
Shirley Fahrny, an administrator at Arthur Murray Dance Studio, took a break from work and strolled across the Clemente Bridge to check out the big screen, picking up a pair of Pirates sunglasses on the way.
"It's fantastic," Ms. Fahrny said. "It's great for the city."
Ms. Fahrny of Brookline said she's been a Pirates fan for decades and always knew they would get back to the postseason.
"I was just hoping it would be in my lifetime," she said.
Brian Tyler, a 54-year-old beer vendor at PNC Park who stopped to pick up his check and stayed to watch the game, witnessed the Pirates' successful 1979 World Series run and held out hope that the team could take the Cardinals in the best-of-five series, which returns to Pittsburgh Sunday.
"I hope the fans will forgive them," he said, pausing before adding, "and buy a beer."
First Published October 3, 2013 11:30 AM