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September 4, 2013

What You Need to Know

The Pittsburgh Pirates: No Longer a Losing Team

by Daniel Rathman


The Tuesday Takeaway
It finally happened. For the first time since 1992, when this writer was two years old, the Pirates have won 81 games in a season, clinching at least a .500 winning percentage and setting their sights on a whole lot more.

Andrew McCutchen got the Bucs going with a solo home run off of Yovani Gallardo in the opening frame, but the Brewers countered with a pair of tallies against Gerrit Cole in the last of the first. McCutchen then teamed up with newcomers Justin Morneau and Marlon Byrd to draw the Pirates even in the top of the third. Three straight singles knotted the score at 2-2.

McCutchen, Morneau, and Byrd joined forces again to put the Pirates ahead in the top of the eighth. The center fielder walked, the first baseman singled, and the right fielder doubled to make it 3-2. But Vin Mazzaro failed to hold the line in the home half of the frame, issuing a leadoff walk to Caleb Gindl, who came around to score on an RBI knock by Jean Segura.

That set the stage for Travis Snider to deliver the biggest hit in the franchise’s recent history. Snider pinch-hit for Mazzaro leading off the top of the ninth, worked a 2-2 count on six pitches, and then walloped a hanging slider from Jim Henderson 424 feet to right-center field to give the visitors a 4-3 lead. Mark Melancon allowed a two-out double to Scooter Gennett in the bottom of the ninth, but he punched out Khris Davis on a curveball to officially end the Pirates’ streak of 20 losing seasons.

With that milestone out of the way, Clint Hurdle’s club can now focus on bigger goals—such as winning the National League Central and contending for a pennant. The Pirates haven’t notched their 81st win of the season in 138 games or fewer since 1979, the last time they won the World Series. And, while Pittsburgh celebrated Snider’s heroics, the Cardinals were stymied by Homer Bailey, Manny Parra, and Aroldis Chapman, who combined on a two-hit shutout in a 1-0 Reds win that pushed the Pirates’ division lead to two games.

That’s the largest Central edge the Pirates have held since August 20. More importantly, it ensures that Pittsburgh will enjoy at least a half-game lead when the Bucs head to St. Louis for a three-game set at Busch Stadium this weekend, the final showdown between the Pirates and Cardinals this season.

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<< Previous Article
Premium Article The Call-Up: Chris Owi... (09/04)
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