For much of the last month you knew that the Pirates were going to get their 82nd win and end the streak that has been nagging them for the last 20 or so years. Tonight it ended. It ended on the back of 2011 first round pick Gerrit Cole throwing an absolute gem. It ended thanks to a RBI double by 2010 first round pick Pedro Alvarez. It ended thanks to first round picks Andrew McCutchen and Neil Walker playing important roles for this team. It ended because of every other player on that team, the coaches, and the front office. I have never been big on the idea that this should be widely celebrated but it is hard not to be pretty excited as a fan about this. While it is not the end point of the season it is surely a nice stop on the drive for the division title. Soak it in and enjoy it tonight. This was a great game to watch and it's a great time to be a Pirates fan.
I don't really want to get into the game too much. This was really all about Cole. I have said it before but this was the best start of his young career. He struck out nine in six innings and gave up only three hits and two walks. His pitches were just filthy tonight and for much of the first five innings it looked like Rangers hitters were going up there just hoping to put the ball in play and not strike out. He hit a little snag in the sixth inning where he threw 30 pitches and walked two with two outs but he got out of that jam and go through the seventh clean. He probably could have went out for the eighth inning but Clint Hurdle decided that he did enough and Tony Watson and Mark Melancon did what they have done all season, which is be awesome.
The Pirates offense wasn't that good tonight but for as good as Cole was Rangers starter Yu Darvish was just as good. He has come close on a couple of occasions to having no hitters and strikes out a butt-load of hitters and he was having his way with the Pirates lineup for much of the night. He left the game after seven innings of work where he threw only 81 pitches but he left thanks to an injury so I am not sure if he would have been able to come back out in the eighth inning even with the low pitch count. The Pirates actually only struck out six times to him so I consider that a small victory.
Anyways, with two outs in the seventh inning Marlon Byrd doubled to left field thanks to the no doubles defense (irony!) and then Alvarez doubled into the left-center gap with two strikes to give the Pirates the only run they needed. It felt good and with how good Cole and the pen has been this year you knew that might just be enough for them to get the job done. It was.
I know a lot of places wrote up some longer 82 win pieces but that wasn't something I really wanted to do. I wasn't sure that I was going to be able to see the 82nd win live (I wasn't able to see any of the games at the end of last week) so I didn't want to write something with emotion when I didn't actually have the in-the-moment emotion. I don't even know how to explain what this really means to the fans, because that is who largely takes pride in this. None of the guys on this team have been here the entire time and some of them were only a couple years old when the streak started. A lot of the fans tonight have been through the entire streak. Cam Bonifay, Dave Littlefield, Matt Morris, Derek Bell, Jimmy Anderson, Bryan Bullington, Daniel Moskos, etc, etc, etc.
I remember all this bullshit and it sucked. I sucked myself in on a few occasions when I knew that I was wrong because I wanted to be excited about the Pirates. They are a great franchise and they were being beaten down to nothing. Going to a game in August was almost like a punishment but it's not anymore. This team is good. They have had below average (good in terms of the Pirates the last 20 years) for a few years but nothing really tangible. The management team took over some years ago and put together a plan, finally, and it's starting to bear the fruit. I enjoy fruit. A lot.
The fact remains that as cool as it is that I can say that nobody can ever hold that horse shit streak over any Pirates head there are bigger things. There are 19 games left and the Pirates have 82 wins. They are on pace for 93 wins right now and the magic number to clinch a playoff berth is 12. How awesome is that to think of? The playoffs.
The Pirates can be a frustrating team to watch and the four game losing streak they just went through makes you wonder how this team is in a position to challenge for a World Series. What snaps you back to reality is that in a big game against a big pitcher the Pirates were able to throw out there rookie and win the ballgame. The core of this team went out and broke the streak and that might be the best part of this entire night.