So many times this season, there was a collective sigghhhh in the photo well. The inning it would come was never consistent, but it was always the same thing: The other team scores a run lot of runs, an insurmountable hill for the Pirates, and we would wonder how long yet another longer-than-eight-and-a-half-inning game will last.
Well, that script is changing.
There was the 11-inning marathon that saw two three-run comebacks. Then they went on the road and there was the magic in Houston following the Gerrit Cole game. I saw what the Pirates were doing down there and I got jealous. I wanted to be shooting that side of the Pirates before they were gone. The same side I had photographed that long comeback Sunday at PNC. I wanted to shoot those guys who were seemingly impervious to the negativity and excited to win ball games.
The good news? Well, that team is the team we just saw take this series against the Cubs by winning the first three of four 18-5, 5-1 and 6-5. The first two? Those were dominant. This last one, though ... This last one showed off everything the Pirates weren't when playing a full nine innings was a bad thing. Now, nine innings just means a chance for Melky Cabrera magic, a Kevin Newman walk or, the latest, a Jung Ho Kang tag on a piece of smart Corey Dickerson walk-off batting.
This team is fun to cover. I've mentioned it before, but even with Cole Tucker back at AAA, his infectious style and love of the game stuck around. Cabrera, despite being a first-year Pirate, has branded this team in his own, also infectious, way.
Melky is the guy at the end of every celebration line. He's the guy who dragged Josh Bell out for his curtain call on Monday. He's the guy no one expected to be a backbone of the team but clearly is when I look into the dugout.
There is so much joy in said dugout. The high fives, the flexes, the horns on home runs and doubles, the paddling on RBIs. It's all infectious. And, now, instead of looking at a full nine innings as a loss for the Pirates, it has become a chance to shoot another something special.
This time, special was Dickerson choking up -- way up -- on his bat and winning the dang thing for the Pirates. Next time ... well, there's no way to predict the next hero. I just know that the bottom of the ninth inning means the Pirates are down, but not quite out.
Up top sits a selection of photos from the magical portion of this game. The main image is a team celebration shot, and then it goes into Dickerson's swing, celly and, of course, more of Robby Incmikoski in a sea of bubble gum with the hero. As always, I'll see you guys and gals in the comments.