"That was probably one of the best games I've ever seen," Liam Spagnolo said after watching the Pirates beat the Cincinnati Reds, 6-2, in Tuesday night's wild-card playoff game at PNC Park. "They played really well."
Of course, Liam is only 13.
Still, that doesn't make him wrong.
In fact, his assessment may well have been shared by most of the 40,000-plus fans who attended the game.
"I was just telling him, the last time I was here in October, I was 13 years old," said Liam's dad, Mike Spagnolo, 34, of Collier. "And now my son is 13 years old and I got to take him to his first October baseball game."
And what a game it was. The Pirates had everything going for them. Their hitting, their pitching, their defense.
Oh, and the fans.
"It was an unbelievable atmosphere," Mr. Spagnolo said. "I've been to Steelers playoff games and I still think this beat it.
"It seemed like the crowd was into every pitch. Every time someone hit a base hit, they were on their feet. Every time a pitcher for the other team did something bad, we were on their case. I feel like we pulled [Reds starter Johnny] Cueto right off the mound."
It is a moment that is certain to live on in Pittsburgh sports history.
Cueto on the mound in the second inning. The sell-out crowd has been chanting his name -- "Cueee-to! Cueee-to!" -- in a mocking sing-song fashion since he gave up a home run to Pirates right fielder Marlon Byrd, making the score 1-0.
Cueto prepares to pitch to Pirates catcher Russell Martin. And Cueto drops the baseball.
The crowd responds with a full-throated roar of delight. Then, after Cueto retrieves the ball from the grass, Martin sends his next pitch into the stands for a home run, making the score 2-0.
Broadcaster Orel Hershiser compared the chanting to fans trying to distract a basketball player at the free-throw line. Pirates manager Clint Hurdle called it "a hockey move."
"That's for the goalie," he said. "It's a sign that you got a chance to get something good done. You got a chance to push somebody maybe off the mound, out of the goal."
Ron Klammer, 80, of Green Tree, agreed.
"It's tremendous, the way they chanted Cueto's name," Mr. Klammer said. "I really think that caused him to give up that home run."
"It's like the 12th man in football," Mr. Spagnolo said of the fans' contribution. "But I'll call it the 10th man because it's baseball."
Dan Majors: firstname.lastname@example.org. First Published October 2, 2013 8:00 PM