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Thread: Pirates can take sigh of relief ... but not for long

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    Default Pirates can take sigh of relief ... but not for long

    Pirates can take sigh of relief ... but not for long
    Players preaching confidence, defiance in face of dire forecasts

    Wednesday, April 07, 2010
    By Dejan Kovacevic, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

    [IMGR][/IMGR]In the hours leading up to the Pirates' opener Monday, it took little to see the mood was tense. Players mostly kept to themselves, there was no music, little joking, and an awful lot of fidgeting with bats and gloves that already had been fidgeted plenty.

    Nervous, anyone?

    It was not just the young guys, either.

    Brendan Donnelly, the 38-year-old setup reliever who once won a World Series game and has pitched in 354 others, gave up two soft hits in the eighth inning to create some trouble.

    His thought process?

    "First thing I thought was, this game right here for this team is huge," Donnelly would recall later. "It was a just-don't-screw-it-up kind of thing."

    He did not, striking out Los Angeles' Russell Martin and Andre Ethier with two terrific third strikes, and the Pirates went on to drub the Dodgers, 11-5, at PNC Park.

    But that "just-don't-screw-it-up" sentiment might have best expressed why so many of the Pirates visibly approached that opener with apprehension: Given the team's 17-year losing, a miserable second half to 2009 and maybe an even more miserable spring training, one can only imagine how the public might have reacted if they had lost. Or worse, if they had been embarrassed.

    As it was, of course, they won not only the game but also vocal support from the throbbing capacity crowd of 39,024.

    Garrett Jones, after slugging two home runs, spoke with gusto about the crowd's effect, moved to the point of mangling metaphors: "That crowd ... it gets your butterflies pumping and your adrenaline going. You feel so strong on defense. Any aches and pains you have, they all go away when you get between the lines and hear a crowd like that."

    Now, imagine the reverse effect, and one might understand how that opener represented a sigh of relief.

    "Oh, yeah, absolutely," third baseman Andy LaRoche said. "It'a great win, a big win for us and the city of Pittsburgh. It's a little confidence boost. We had a tough spring."

    From there, imagine how another victory in the second game tonight -- 7:05 first pitch at PNC -- might feel even more satisfying because it would involve more than an exhale.

    It would be taking a series from the Dodgers, a pennant contender.

    It would be closing in on a sweep before a six-game trip to the West Coast.

    It would be ...

    Well, even that probably is getting too far ahead.

    "It's just one game and one win, and we need to just try to take that approach into the next one," Jones said. "It's a long season, and there are going to be ups and downs."

    Still, one area that has most assuredly not fluctuated since the beginning of spring training has been the air of defiance about this group.

    Most players have heard and read the last-place predictions, including the many forecasting 100 or more losses. And they have heard and read much worse than that, especially in the final few days of that 7-21-1 spring. But, rather than discard or dismiss such material, they have elected to embrace it.

    In fact, it appears to have become their glue.

    "We know the stuff that's out there," catcher Ryan Doumit said. "But you know what? Our spring training didn't really tell the tale. We've got some exciting players in here, a lot of talent, and we're going to surprise a lot of people this year."

    "We have to believe in ourselves, and I think we do," shortstop Ronny Cedeno said. "There are good players here. We have players who are going to get better. What we have to do is come together, play together."

    The negativity surrounding the Pirates can be mostly ignored while in Bradenton. The players cannot hear the talk shows or read the newspapers, and even surfing the Internet is limited because of the extensive time on the field.

    But the same is not the case once in Pittsburgh, and that is one reason the four veterans -- Donnelly, outfielder Ryan Church, infielder Bobby Crosby and closer Octavio Dotel -- called that players-only meeting last week in Philadelphia.

    The primary topic, as delivered by Church: "If you don't like what's out there, change it."

    The Pirates get a second crack tonight, but they should be on guard against complacency: Although they have won their past four season openers, they have lost the second game in five of the past six years.

    [HIGH-LIGHT]NOTES[/HIGH-LIGHT] -- Daniel McCutchen, the Pirates' starter Saturday in Phoenix, pitched four scoreless innings in a simulated game Tuesday in Bradenton, Fla. He made 60 pitches. ... The Pirates announced Tuesday that Jones was the first player in franchise history to homer in his first two at-bats of the season. ... The Arizona Diamondbacks' rotation for the weekend series: Rodrigo Lopez, Dan Haren and Edwin Jackson.
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    Default Re: Pirates can take sigh of relief ... but not for long

    The Pirates gutted out a nice win tonight. While they blew some good scoring opportunities, the bullpen did a nice job until Cedeno could put the game away. Winning the 1 run game will be the key to the Pirates season, and they are off to a good start in that deparrtment with tonight's 1 run win.
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    Default Re: Pirates can take sigh of relief ... but not for long

    If they can find a way to be less than atrocious on the road this year, they might be OK.
    "Work fast, throw strikes, change speeds"--Ray Miller

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    Default Re: Pirates can take sigh of relief ... but not for long

    Here's hoping this weekend in AZ is a good one.

    Good news is it looks the Lincecum will throw Sunday, so the Bucs dodge him Monday.

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