By Jim Sankey
Allied News Baseball Columnist
THE PITTSBURGH Pirates have played 167 games during the 2013 baseball season. The St. Louis Cardinals have played 166.
Tonight, one of the two teams will play its final game of the season, while the other continues in the trek toward the World Series.
The Bucs will rely on a young right hander who exemplifies everything that is supposed to happen to number one picks. Last Friday, Gerrit Cole showed why the Pirates have trumpeted the 23-year-old since they inked him two Augusts ago.
Despite not making his major-league debut until June 22 this year, Cole’s 11 wins trail only ace Francisco Liriano’s 17 victories on a team built on pitching.
While not as impressive as Liriano’s wild card masterpiece, Cole’s gem last Friday against the Cardinals in the National League Division Series allowed the Pirates to wipe away the disappointment of the previous night’s 9-1 thrashing in Game 1, tying the best-of-five series at one each.
Cole’s performance extended the excellence that earned Cole the Rookie of the Month honors for September, when he went 4-0, tying for the league lead in wins, while ranking first among all rookie hurlers as he helped the Pirates finish strong. He is the first Pirate to earn the award since Pedro Alvarez captured September 2010 honors. During the month, Cole posted a 1.69 ERA and struck out a rookie-best 39 while walking only 10. His 32 innings of work led all NL rookies while his .212 opponents' batting average ranked second behind St. Louis Cardinals rookie Michael Wacha, whose mastery of the Pirates on Monday forced tonight’s decider.
While Cole’s presence gives the Bucs their best shot of meeting the Dodgers this weekend in the league championship series, the Cards are favorites, since the Bucs must face Cardinals’ ace Adam Wainwright, who is 3-0 in seven post-season appearances, including his massacre win last Thursday.
The Pirates aren’t the only ones who have been mis-treated during the past couple of weeks. Starts for Pirates games have been switched without regard for ticket holders, and still their game times have been the least convenient of all.
Last Friday, the vast majority of the faithful had to scramble to find a place where they could watch Game 2 since it was not on cable systems in most of the Allied area.
And in order to promote itself, major league baseball signed a deal with the Devil (aka TBS) to televise early rounds of the playoffs. Last Friday, with three games already on TBS, MLB decided to air the Pirates-Cardinals game on its MLB-tv network.
With no regard for its fans who are not able to subscribe to the network or unable to drive to a sports bar, restaurant, or similar location where the game was being aired, baseball (aka Commissioner Bud Selig) blacked out the game in a series that Pirates fans had waited 21 seasons to watch.
Another exasperating experience prohibited fans from watching the Pirates secure the home wild card game a couple of Saturdays ago.
Unlike the “conspiracy” of MLB during the NLDS, this blackout was due to territorial rights assigned to cable television companies.
Many Allied area cable subscribers will remember that several years ago, we lost the Fox and ABC broadcasts from their Pittsburgh affiliates because we are considered to be located in the Youngstown territory.
Since the Youngstown area covers Cleveland Indians games, we got the Indians-Twins game on the day before the regular season ended.
Just as frustrating is that when that game was delayed by rain, Fox aired the Rays-Blue Jays game. The rationale is that Youngstown area, which covers the Indians, would be interested in a game featuring the Rays, who at the time were in a battle for a wild card slot, as were the Indians.
The good news is that no remaining Pirates game will be blacked out, unless the team fades to black this evening in St. Louis.