Pirates-Reds and the Madness of the Crowd

First and foremost, the atmosphere was electric. The Pirates hadn’t hosted a post-season game in 21 years, and their fans were in a mood to party. They chanted, they cheered, they hoisted cans of Iron City. Most were adorned in black, but they didn’t come for a funeral. In the end, it was Cincinnati’s season that died. Pittsburgh won 6-2 and will go on to face St. Louis in the NLCS.

What happened on the field was almost overshadowed by what happened in the stands. PNC Park was packed, and it was loud. In the opinion of more than a few scribes, it was as loud as any game they’ve covered, in any sport.

The Pirates bats were also loud. Russell Martin cranked a pair of home runs, Marlon Byrd added a third, and Neil Walker pitched in with a run-scoring double. Much of the damage came against Johnny Cueto, whose presence on the mound was especially notable in that Mat Latos was originally slated to start.

Since joining the Reds, Latos has been an April-September stud and an October dud. The right-hander imploded in last year’s NLDS Game 5, and last night he wasn’t able to take the ball with the season on the line. One person covering the game suggested Latos didn’t want the ball. Another questioned his makeup, saying Curt Schilling would have refused not to pitch.

Latos reportedly complained that his arm was “barking,” which made Dusty “can’t teach an old dog new tricks” Baker’s decision to go with Cueto defensible.

Cueto wasted little time proving the decision unhealthy. With chants of “Quay-toe, Quay-toe,” raining down on him, he lasted just three innings. Regardless of the state of Latos’ elbow — only he and team doctors know for sure — Cueto left the mound shell-shocked.

Francisco Liriano, meanwhile, was brilliant. The Pirates southpaw-slayer dominated the left-handed star power of Cincinnati’s lineup, limiting the Choo-Votto-Bruce troika to a lone single in eight at bats, with four strikeouts. His slider and changeup were big reasons why.

“He was amazing,” said Martin, who called an outstanding game for his left-hander. “You get this atmosphere and the hitters are going to be over-aggressive. They’re going to be hunting fastballs and he has the ability to make his changeup and his slider look like fastballs. That’s what worked for us. We kind of used their aggressiveness against them. But for the most part, he was just dominating down in the zone and mixing his pitches well.”

One pitch almost turned the tide of the entire game. In the early innings, Todd Frazier hit a fly ball in the direction of the left-field foul pole with two runners on base. Had it stayed fair, it would given the Reds a lead and sent the Pirates faithful into a stunned silence. Instead, it drifted foul. Moments later, Frazier grounded out and the fans roared, and didn’t stop roaring until long after the final pitch was delivered.

The energy of the crowd wasn’t lost on the combatants. After the game, players from both sides readily acknowledged it.

“The crowd was impressive,” said Reds pitcher Bronson Arroyo. “It started with the chants during the introductions. It sounded like a soccer stadium for a little while. They put on a good show here, man. The fans here are hungry, and they showed it. They brought a lot of energy.”

“I’ve never seen anything like it, anywhere” said Martin. “It was fun to be a part of it. To have the opportunity to play in front of a crowd like this was amazing.”

“I felt like I was at a football game,” added Travis Snider. “The intensity from the first pitch, even in the pre-game warm-ups, is what we dreamed of. When we were making our run during the end of the season, we talked a lot about what this place was going to be like in October, and the fans really brought it for us tonight. This is a special time for this city and this team. Hopefully we can keep it going.”

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David Laurila grew up in Michigan's Upper Peninsula and now writes about baseball from his home in Cambridge, Mass. He authored the Prospectus Q&A series at Baseball Prospectus from February 2006-March 2011 and is a regular contributor to several publications. His first book, Interviews from Red Sox Nation, was published by Maple Street Press in 2006. He can be followed on Twitter @DavidLaurilaQA.

42 Responses to “Pirates-Reds and the Madness of the Crowd”

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  1. AJT says:

    NLDS game 5. I believe you put ALDS.

    Too bad about that though, he did well filling in for Cueto in Game 1.

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  2. thirteenthirteen says:

    Travis Snider felt like a football game? That sounds painful.

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  3. Ryan says:

    “I felt like I was a football game,” added Travis Snider.

    Snider with an interesting identity crisis. Of course, given his numbers this year, perhaps he’d rather be a football game than a baseball player.

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  4. dcoffell says:

    Sadly, though the article tries to do it, we can’t simply pencil my Redbirds in for the NLCS just yet…

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  5. Upset Rangers Fan says:

    I’m a mad crowd all by myself.

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  6. here goes nothing says:

    so happy for pittsburgh. ball’s in o.co’s court to win the “maddest crowd” crown back now–mt. davis is open and capacity will be at 48,000. tigers fan just told me the crowd is the thing’s he most scared of. time to prove it. no excuses.

    an oakland-pittsburgh series might not get the best ratings, but it would make me happy as a clam.

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  7. matt w says:

    Correction: After his long foul, Frazier struck out on a pitch way in the dirt.

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  8. Steve says:

    Don’t you just love how the crowd made Liriano throw better? I love how the crowd made Russell Martin focus so he could hit those home runs. Crowd wins games. #sabermetrics

    -17 Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Pirates Hurdles says:

      If you don’t think the crowd affected Johnny Cueto, you weren’t watching the game. How many times do you see a pitcher drop the ball on the mound?

      No one is saying the crowd won the game, but its hard to deny an influence and it certainly impacted the entertainment value.

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    • attgig says:

      I believe the stat is called CrPB and CrFoc

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    • matt says:

      @Steve. Don’t be an imperious jerk. Be a fan. It’s October. Please enjoy.

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    • Oh, you poor thing – unable to enjoy the game yourself, or understand the joy of tens of thousands of people who were reveling in the excitement…

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      • Charlie says:

        I’m so disappointed right now. Where do I start? HOW do we QUANTIFY that the crowd affected Cueto? We don’t. We can’t. We are using our perception to draw absolutes. I’m disappointed this is a fangrahs article; I’m disappointed you all are adamantly thrashing the above commenter.

        So bad. Hopefully I don’t see this again.

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        • Curious as to why you’re disappointed this article was published. You’re right in saying you can’t quantify crowd impact — that’s obvious — but not every FanGraphs is purely analytical. This one simply highlighted the atmosphere at PNC, which, as noted, almost overshadowed the game itself.

          +5 Vote -1 Vote +1

        • Frank says:

          Do you want to truly understand and appreciate baseball, or do you just want to feel like you’re super smart because you use an analytical approach? It’s called a middle ground.

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        • Bob says:

          Charlie, I believe if there’s a way of finding out how to quantify a crowd’s effect on a player, it begins by having a conversation about it (that conversation would be eerily similar to this one). Perhaps spurred by an article that broaches the subject (also eerily similar to the one above), an industrious researcher finds more compelling evidence to support the claim, or for that matter, deny it. And while I get your overall point, that correlation does not imply causation, sometimes it does. Frankly I’m a little disappointed in you right now, for believing yourself to be the arbiter of both what can be known and what should be said. So I guess we’re even.

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        • Brendan J. says:

          David, to be fair, I should have clarified and my comments were directed towards the responses. So, sorry for somewhat including you in it.

          To the rest, you know sometimes attacking me personally by claiming I am trying to self-promote myself on baseball intelligence is just drawing away from the overall argument. I don’t care if you think that, but let’s stay on topic.

          Bob, do crowds have an effect on players? I don’t know. You don’t know. So, let’s not talk in absolutes here. Also, “correlation does not imply causation” is eerily similar to some type of statement in an introduction to research methodology course. I don’t really get what you are trying to prove there, as I am not making any causation statement. Maybe you can elaborate.

          Fangraphs prides itself in trying to quantify value. By bashing the above poster, claiming he is a baseball hater, and trying to prove the crowd gave up the homer to Martin goes against the very principle of this website, in addition to all the research and excellent crowd sourced projects done.

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        • Bob says:

          First, I’m not sure who I’m addressing. But if you, Brendan, are Charlie, then so be it.

          “do crowds have an effect on players? I don’t know. You don’t know. So, let’s not talk in absolutes here.”

          Agreed. And that’s exactly my point. Neither of us knows, but only one of us seems interested in entertaining the question. We don’t know. We don’t know just how much catchers effect games either, but here we are, trying to make headway on it. Should we stop because we’ll never properly quantify it? In fact, never once did I mention or assert anything remotely resembling an absolute. Correct me if I’m wrong, but insisting that ‘we can’t know’ something is the only seemingly absolutist statement that either of us made, and that was my point above.

          Laurila’s article was basically a recap of the game with an aside about how involved the crowd was. The genesis of this thread begins with Steve asserting that correlation doesn’t equal causation. The rebuttals had to do with that. If I conflated his argument with yours then I misunderstood you and I apologize for it.

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    • Fastpiece says:

      Everyone slanders you but you’re totally right. A messiah wandering alone in the desert, no one knowing what wisdom they miss.

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  9. Bandwagon Pirates fan says:

    What the hell is a jolly roger? Playoffs baby!!!!

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  10. Hurtlockertwo says:

    While Latos wife was, supposedly, getting the crap beat out of her in the park. Don’t know if that is true, but these types of celebrations have a bad habit of getting out of control.

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    • Pirates Hurdles says:

      There are some pretty disparate accounts of that event last night. I think all we can say is that security got called for 20 or 30 people in an argument in a bar in the park. Something about the Anna Benson clone makes me suspicious. I’m sure something went down, but I wager it was a two way street. No one would even know who she was if she was not wearing Cincy garb as she claims and minding her own business.

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      • Mister says:

        I’ve been to PNC a few times as a fan of the visiting team and I ABSOLUTELY believe Dallas Latos’ side of the story. There were some nice Pittsburgh fans that I talked to, but there were also some people that were honestly the biggest jerks I’ve ever met anywhere in my life. I remember thinking “these are the kind of pathetic sports fans who would actually commit violence over their team.” In fact, two Pittsburgh fans threatened me and my family.

        You’d think they’d have been happy we were there. This was 2011 and us Red Sox fans were giving the Pirates 3 games of sellout revenues, which was something Pittsburgh didn’t pull off on its own very often back then.

        It’s a bummer, actually, because the 2013 Pirates are a great and exciting team, and McCutchen deserves the NL MVP. I would like to be able to root for this team to come out of the NL, but I don’t want those awful fans to get any satisfaction.

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        • Pirates Hurdles says:

          Well I’m one of “those awful fans” and shockingly I have never threatened or beat up anyone. In fact I have conversed with many fans of the opponent over the years and had quite a good time. Lets not act like the actions of a few drunk idiots characterize the entire fan base. I’m certain that the same can be said for obnoxious Red Sox fans.

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        • PantslessJoseLind says:

          Bandwagoning pink-hat Sox fans invading other stadiums get what they deserve.

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  11. srpst23 says:

    “The Jolly Roger is any of various flags flown to identify a ship’s crew as pirates that were about to attack. The flag most commonly identified as the Jolly Roger today is the skull and crossbones, a flag consisting of a human skull above two long bones (probably tibias) set in an x-mark arrangement, most usually depicted crossing each other directly under the skull, on a black field. This design was used by several pirates, including Captains “Black Sam” Bellamy, Edward England, and John Taylor.[1] Some Jolly Roger flags also include an hourglass, another common symbol representing death in 17th- and 18th-century Europe. Despite its prominence in popular culture, plain black flags were often employed by most pirates in the 17th-18th century. Historically, the flag was flown to frighten pirates’ victims into surrendering without a fight, since it conveyed the message that the attackers were outlaws who would not consider themselves bound by the usual rules of engagement—and might, therefore, slaughter those they defeated (since captured pirates were usually hanged, they did not have much to gain by asking quarter if defeated). The same message was sometimes conveyed by a red flag, as discussed below.”

    According to Wikipedia

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  12. 68FC says:

    Those scribes have clearly never been to a Seahawks game. Watching the game on TV, I could feel the crowd, it seemed more like a hockey crowd than a baseball crowd.

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  13. hamjenkinsIII says:

    Lat Matos

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  14. FeslenR says:

    What I didn’t really get is why someone like Arroyo, or Cingrani wasn’t in the game when Cueto stank. I mean, you only have this one game you should treat it as “do or die”.

    Unless Cingrani was hurt, he would have been the better choice than Marshall. Oh well, this is why I’m an “armchair gm/manager” rather than a real one.

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    • -MBP says:

      Cingrani was in Arizona rehabbing his back

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    • E-Dub says:

      Cingrani was in AZ getting stretched out, so unavailable. I agree that he would have been the logical choice in a pinch were he healthy. Starting Cueto was at least defensible. Bringin in Marshall to stop the bleeding, fresh off the DL and with all 3.1 innings pitched since the end of May was flat out dubious. Much better to have brought Simon in to try to extinguish the blaze.

      Oh well. I’m as happy as Reds fan can be for the Pirates, and I’m definitely rooting for them to be the N.L. rep in the WS. I felt going into the game that it would be disappointing if the Reds had eliminated them when they’d finally gotten off the schneid.

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  15. Jason Linden says:

    I think the Latos comments are a but much. First, he was fantastic in game one of the playoffs last year. When Cueto went down, he took the ball on short rest and threw 4 innings of 1 run baseball. So, he has one good sort of start and one bad start. But, by all accounts, he volunteered to enter that game last year, which makes the comments about him opting out this year pretty unfounded.

    I get that you’re repeating the nonsense accusations of announcers, but nonsense is nonsense. I mean, don’t we want injured pitchers to say when they’re hurt?

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  16. CalipariFan506 says:

    How hurt was Latos? They said he would have pitched game 1 in St. Louis. IMO this was a Dusty hunch. Going with his “ace” because of great career numbers vs the Pirates and better at PNC.

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  17. Clifton Lee says:

    I was available, Cincinnati.

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