At long last, Meek participating in pennant race

At long last, Meek participating in pennant race

PITTSBURGH -- Want the perfect perspective on the baseball revival happening in Pittsburgh? There is no better choice for that than Evan Meek, who on Saturday spent his first wide-eyed night in the National League Central race.

Not only does the right-handed reliever's tenure with the Pirates date back to the dark days of 2008 -- remarkably, Jeff Karstens, Sunday's starting pitcher, is the only other player remaining from that team -- but he had freshly been transported from Triple-A Indianapolis to the frenzied spectacle of PNC Park.

"I got goosebumps in the bullpen. I had never heard the place that loud," Meek said the day after 39,411 had cheered the Bucs' 5-1 win over Miami. "This is why I've always said this is one of the best places to play, because of the diehard fans. Even when things weren't going too good, they stood behind us."

Meek, the 2010 National League All-Star, couldn't share in the 2011 flirtation with a pennant race. He was disabled with shoulder tendinitis from June 7 -- when the Bucs were still below .500, in fourth place -- to Sept. 9 -- by when the club had crashed to a 66-78 record.

"I didn't get in the game [Saturday], but it was amazing just to sit back and take it in," Meek said. "And the fans need to keep coming. They make us better. We need them. I feel fortunate to be healthy and be able come back and be a part of it."