PITTSBURGH – The energy, the vibes were immaculate. Vacant seats were rare. Each piece, no matter how large, seemed to elicit a cacophony of applause, cheers. It was the best crowd of the season, and it served as the backdrop for one of its most impressive victories.
In front of PNC Park’s first sold-out crowd of the season — a conglomerate that included the legendary Bill Mazeroski, who was in attendance at his bobblehead party — the Pirates edged out the Yankees, the major league’s top team, 5-2.
On this seemingly ordinary Tuesday, the stadium was the place to be. It was a night manager Derek Shelton had been looking forward to witnessing for some time.
“It was a pretty cool atmosphere tonight,” Shelton said. “I’ve waited a long time for [David Bednar’s entrance song] “Renegade” was meant to be played to a full house, so it was pretty sick. I give a ton of credit to our fans. They were inside.
There were several moments that drew hometown crowds. Daniel Vogelbach’s solo home run in the second inning gave Pittsburgh the lead it never lost. Jack Suwinski’s two-run homer in the fourth provided even more cause for celebration. Bryan Reynolds’ dive early in the third saved a point, if not two. But the moment that really sent the stadium into a frenzy came during one of the game’s most critical moments.
With one out in the seventh inning and the Pirates leading by four runs, the Yankees put runners up first and second for Aaron Judge, who is arguably the favorite for the American League Most Valuable Player award. Judge, who already has 29 home runs on his season resume, could have turned the game into a single-run affair with a powerful but compact swing. Instead, Wil Crowe blocked Judge just enough with a 2-2 lead, triggering a late set 4-6-3 double play. The black and gold brigade was digging it.
“You go out, and it’s the first time the PitchCom had to be fully shot,” Crowe said. “Playing in these environments brings out the best in us. It’s great fun to be a part of it. When the fans come out and you know they support us, we love it.”
For several team rookies, such as Suwinski and Oneil Cruz, Tuesday’s game was their first experience of a playoff-like atmosphere. José Quintana, however, saw quite a few live environments and set the tone accordingly. Against one of the Majors’ best offenses, Quintana put on another fantastic performance, giving up a run over five innings with seven strikeouts and no walks.
“Q has pitched in a lot of big games before, and he’s kept his cool,” Shelton said. “He threw the ball well. … It was a nice presence for him to be there, to go first [inning]execute throws and be able to take advantage of them.
In addition to the aforementioned group, many others contributed to the victory. Crowe, Duane Underwood Jr. and Bednar were in the lead when Quintana left. The offense scored former Pirate Jameson Taillon for five runs in his first Pittsburgh start. Ben Gamel and Yoshi Tsutsugo both had two hits in their first games off the injured list, the former contributing to an RBI double. Each of these contributions resulted in a spike in the decibel level at 115 Federal Street.
“It was a great environment, just to have this place packed,” Suwinski said. “Ton of energy, lots of crowd noise. I think that really helped a bit. You kinda feel that.
PNC Park has hosted its fair share of exhilarating moments this season, but Tuesday’s win over the Yankees had more juice, more pizzazz. The passion, the dynamism was palpable. If the Pirates continue to grow, continue to mature, more nights of this magnitude could be in store.