We don’t know if the “Cue-to” chants from the Wild Card game actually made a difference in the way Johnny Cueto pitched. What we do know is that Johnny Cueto entered the game with a dominant track record against the Pirates. The chants started, and immediately he dropped the ball off the mound, then gave up a solo homer. By the end of the fourth inning, he was out of the game. It’s hard to completely chalk that up to correlation.
Prior to that Wild Card game, the matchup looked even. Francisco Liriano had dominant numbers at home, and success against the Reds. Cueto had success against the Pirates. On paper it looked like a pitcher’s duel that could go either way, depending on which offense got the edge.
That’s almost how the upcoming two games against the Cardinals look.
Tomorrow there’s Francisco Liriano again, going up against Joe Kelly. Sure, Kelly has good numbers against the Pirates, but he’s a regression candidate. Liriano is not a regression candidate, and is certainly capable of putting up dominant performances against any team. He has also done this in a lot of big games.
Monday will feature Charlie Morton against Michael Wacha. Morton has struggled against the Cardinals, but does better at home. Wacha has been hot at the end of the year, and might be a slight advantage over Morton. But could the crowd at PNC tip the scales?
I’m not sure if the crowd will be amped up again on Sunday, but it wouldn’t surprise me. However, if the Pirates win from a Liriano start tomorrow, then they’d enter Monday up 2-1, with a possible clinching game. Even though it would be an early afternoon game on a Monday, I think the crowd would be pumped for a possible clinching game.
I was in St. Louis for the last two games. The crowd there was lively, but they were hardly anything close to PNC Park during the Wild Card game. 30 minutes before the Wild Card game, Pirates fans were starting “Let’s go Bucs” chants. During the lineup introductions they were giving loud boos to the Reds, and loud cheers for the Pirates. Then there were the Cue-to chants.
The loudest I heard the Cardinals fans came after the Carlos Beltran homer. By then, the wheels were off the wagon for the Pirates. The Cardinals fans weren’t having any impact on the game. 30 minutes before the first game, half of the seats were empty. I didn’t even realize the lineups were being introduced until I looked up and noticed half of the Pirates roster down the third base line. Cardinals fans actually cheered for Clint Hurdle and other Pirates when they were introduced.
There’s no question that the Pirates will have more of an advantage with the home field atmosphere. The question is just how much of an advantage that will be. The Pirates players are calling for another #PNCBlackout tomorrow, although that might not have the same impact during the day as it would at night. A loud crowd would have an impact, and could possibly swing an advantage, just like it possibly provided an advantage against Cueto. The right crowd noise could ensure that Liriano helps the Pirates win on Sunday, and it could tip the scales in Morton’s favor on Monday.
The two games will be close, and the Pirates could take both games. Any extra help they could get would be huge, just like it might have been against the Reds in the last home playoff game.
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