PITTSBURGH -- The energy, the vibrations were immaculate. Vacant seats were few and far between. Every play, regardless of magnitude, seemed to incite a cacophony of applause, of cheer. This was the best crowd of the season, and it served as the backdrop to one of the most impressive wins of its inhabitants.
On this seemingly ordinary Tuesday, the ballpark was the place to be. It was a night that manager Derek Shelton has been eager to witness for quite some time.
“That was a pretty cool atmosphere tonight,” Shelton said. “I've waited a long time for [David Bednar’s entrance song] ‘Renegade’ to be played with a packed house, so that was pretty sick. I give our fans a ton of credit. They were into it.”
There were several moments that had the hometown crowd into it. 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 reason to cheer. Bryan Reynolds’ diving catch in the top of the third saved one run, if not two. But the moment that really sent the stadium into a frenzy came during one of the game’s most critical junctures.
With one out in the seventh inning and the Pirates leading by four runs, the Yankees put runners on first and second for Aaron Judge, who’s arguably the front-runner for the American League Most Valuable Player Award. Judge, who already has 29 home runs on his season résumé, could’ve turned the game into a one-run affair with one powerful yet compact swing. Instead, Wil Crowe jammed Judge just enough with a 2-2 sinker, kick-starting an inning-ending 4-6-3 double play. The black and gold brigade was digging it.
“You get out there, and it’s the first time the PitchCom had to be turned all the way,” Crowe said. “Playing in those environments brings out the best in us. It’s a lot of fun to be a part of. When the fans come out and you know they’re supporting us, we love it."
For several of the team’s rookies, such as Suwinski and Oneil Cruz, Tuesday’s game was their first experience with a playoff-like atmosphere. José Quintana, though, has seen quite a few live environments and set the tone accordingly. Against one of the Majors' best offenses, Quintana put together another fantastic performance, allowing one run across five innings with seven strikeouts and no walks.
“Q’s pitched in a lot of big games before, and he maintained his composure,” Shelton said. “He threw the ball well. … It was a nice presence for him to be out there, go through the first [inning], execute pitches and be able to build off it.”
Along with the aforementioned bunch, there were plenty of others who contributed to the win. Crowe, Duane Underwood Jr. and Bednar held the lead upon Quintana’s departure. The offense tagged former Pirate Jameson Taillon for five runs in his first start back in Pittsburgh. Ben Gamel and Yoshi Tsutsugo both chipped in two hits in their first games off the injured list, the former contributing an RBI double. Each and every one of those contributions resulted in a spike of the decibel level at 115 Federal Street.
“It was an awesome environment, just getting that place packed out,” Suwinski said. “Ton of energy, a lot of crowd noise. I think that really helped a little bit. You kind of feel that.”
PNC Park has hosted its fair share of exhilarating moments this season, but Tuesday’s win over the Yankees had extra juice, extra spice. The passion, the vibrancy was palpable. Should the Pirates continue to grow, continue to mature, more nights of this magnitude may be in store.