Pirates notebook: Players call for a 'blackout'


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When the Pirates take the field for their first playoff game in 21 years, they are hoping for an environment that is more like a college football game than a baseball game.

That is, after all, where a few players got their idea for a PNC Park blackout.

A handful of players were watching the Georgia-LSU game TV Saturday in Cincinnati when someone mentioned that Georgia asks its fans to wear all black to certain games and all red to others as an intimidation tactic.

That sparked an idea for the Pirates to encourage their fans to do the same.

Michael McKenry, A.J. Burnett and Andrew McCutchen have since sparked a social media campaign asking that all fans attending the wild-card game to wear black.

"I'm excited to see how many fans are going to show up in all black, black and gold, having a blacked-out stadium to show that it's not just us playing on the field -- it's them, too," McCutchen said.

The social media movement got too late of a start for the Pirates to plan a large T-shirt giveaway like the Penguins used to do for their playoff whiteouts. But the Pirates will hand out black rally towels, which mimic the team's Jolly Roger flag.

"We're looking for a little extra intimidation for the first postseason game at PNC Park," McKenry said. "We always wear our black jerseys, it seems like. It's a big part of who we are. ... I just think it'd be neat. I know that would be intimidating if we walked into that."

McCutchen hit in practice

The Pirates avoided a scare Monday when McCutchen, the National League's MVP favorite, took a batted ball off his face while in the outfield in batting practice.

"I think I bruised the ball quite a bit," McCutchen said. "You probably want to interview that. I sent it to the hospital. I'm awesome, but I really think I hurt the ball. I've got to go apologize to it."

Jordy Mercer hit a line drive that bounced before hitting McCutchen.

Roster breakdown

The Pirates will carry nine pitchers, three catchers and 13 fielders tonight in their one-game wild-card showdown.

"We've got the same seven coming from the bullpen that have been with us all year," manager Clint Hurdle said. Those seven are closer Jason Grilli, setup man Mark Melancon, left-handers Tony Watson and Justin Wilson and right-handers Vin Mazzaro, Bryan Morris and Jeanmar Gomez.

There are six spots bench spots, and the Pirates have a pool of eight players from which to pick.

The Pirates have until 10 a.m. today to finalize their roster. Should they advance, they can piece together an entirely different roster for a National League Division Series.

Though starting pitchers Burnett and Charlie Morton will not make the team's 25-man roster today, the Pirates can petition Major League Baseball so both pitchers can sit in the team's dugout.

Drabek to throw first pitch

Former Cy Young winner Doug Drabek, who pitched for the Pirates from 1987-92, will throw out the ceremonial first pitch tonight. Drabek started the Pirates' most recent playoff game -- Game 7 of the National League Championship Series Oct. 14, 1992 against the Atlanta Braves. McCutchen's mom, Petrina, will sing the national anthem.

Gates open at 6

Gates will at 6 p.m. for the 8:07 p.m. start, though fans can access the PNC Park Riverwalk as early as 5:30 p.m. North Shore parking lots will open to Pirates fans at 4 p.m., the same time a pregame festival starts at Federal Street to the east of the stadium.

Cole honored

Pirates rookie pitcher Gerrit Cole was named the National League rookie of the month for September. Cole, 23, went 4-0 in five starts with a 1.69 ERA and a major league-high 39 strikeouts.

pirates

Michael Sanserino: msanserino@post-gazette.com, 412-263-1722 and Twitter @msanserino.


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