Gene Collier: Now is time for Pirates to really, finally, get hot



Tuesday was social media night at the ballpark, so you can only hope that some of the 25,521 on hand enjoyed the drama on the field during perhaps the most critical game on the 2014 home schedule to date.

Granted, the Pirates body-slamming the St. Louis Cardinals, 5-2, in the middle game of this key divisional negotiation might not have invaded the hallowed realm of virtual reality. Rather it was what might be called, you know, actual reality, or in the more archaic form, just, um, reality.

It should have been fun for everybody, social media night, since there is no truth whatsoever to the rumor that anyone caught diverting his or her attention from a glowing screen to sneak a peek at the masterful Gerrit Cole was to be tasered.

Not true at all.

But while Cole went about the precise business of sculpting a no-hitter deep into the sixth against the team that has pretty much dominated these intra-divisional squabbles all summer (the Cardinals are 31-19 in these situations), the Pirates appeared to persist in their recent policy of either ignoring offensive opportunities or failing to generate them entirely.

They wasted Russell Martin's one-out double in the second, and nearly wasted a bases-loaded, one-out opportunity in the fourth, by which time it was clear to Cole that the whole night might be an exercise in waste management.

It was only because shortstop Clint Barmes, who hasn't been healthy enough to play since the end of June, hit a grounder slowly enough that St. Louis couldn't quite turn it into a double play that the Pirates scored at all in the fourth, and even when Josh Harrison took Lance Lynn to the seats in left field to start the fifth, nobody, including Cole, sensed the presence of actual momentum, or even virtual momentum.

I mean #2wontdoit, right?

It took the Cardinals exactly six at-bats to make it 2-2, the tying run scoring when Tony Watson failed to get .136-hitting Randal Grichuk, summoned from the far end of Mike Matheny's bench. Grichuk looped a single to center to establish what might have been a lengthy entanglement, but once in a while a team that needs a kindly reminder of how to uncomplicate things gets exactly that.

Ladies and gentleman, Ike Davis.

"It's been really cool," Davis said about being in an actual pennant race 10 minutes after launching a three-run home run into the North Side night to keep the Pirates in this one. "Every game means something and it's exciting to come to the ballpark every day, even if you're not playing. I know I'm going to be in a huge situation at some point in the game and I've never been there."

Of course, when they come to the ballpark today they might be without Andrew McCutchen and Pedro Alvarez, both of whom exited Tuesday night with various discomforts, on top of which they'll be facing Adam Wainwright and his muscular 15-8 and 2.52 ERA, a big fish to fry for a team that has never even toyed with the notion of stringing wins together in any impactful way.

"We're fully capable, definitely capable, but we don't think of it in those terms," Harrison said. "Every win you get you want to build off of, [but] baseball's so unpredictable, a bounce here or there, a play here or there."

And it's because the game is so unpredictable that it's so hard to believe the Pirates have not put together even a five-game winning streak. Every other team in the division, including the awful Chicago Cubs, has won at least five in a row at least once.

"All that means to me is that we've got one comin'," said manager Clint Hurdle, who knows a thing or two about momentum in this game. "There was a similar situation, one specifically in Colorado where we hovered around .500, we got a little better every month. We never went on a big streak. Never went on a big losing streak, and then we caught fire late. Very late."

Like winning 21 times in 22 games to the front door of the 2007 World Series.

"Within the game there's tipping points. It goes back to meeting the demands of the game each and every night however that game spins," Hurdle said. "We've had opportunities to add on. Get to four [wins in a row], there's that fifth game, something didn't happen. I know the attitude is there and the focus is there and you just have to find a way to keep grinding, because too many times you'll have teams with that mindset of, 'Well, we haven't gotten hot. When are we going to get hot?' The focus just has to be on winning the game that you're in."

So Davis stepped in Tuesday night at one of those tipping points, the point at which he jacked a Seth Maness changeup to the seats in right.

Would two converted tipping points in a row be too much to ask? Two or four, six or eight?

Hurdle thinks something like that will come.

"I feel confident we've still got one of in front of us."

Gene Collier: gcollier@post-gazette.com.


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