Last night the Pirates ended the longest streak of losing seasons in major American professional sports. After twenty years of finishing with a sub .500 record, the Pirates got their eighty-first win, riding a strong start from Gerrit Cole, some clutch hitting from Travis Snider (who would’ve expected that?), and another solid performance from Mark Melancon.
There was a lot of arguing over whether win number eighty-one ended the streak, or if the Pirates needed to get to eighty-two first. Eighty-one is the end of the streak, the streak was consecutive losing seasons, not consecutive non-winning seasons. Win number eighty-one was important. Win eighty-two will be more important. Win number eight-three will be even more important, etc.
The Pirates goal this season wasn’t to just have a winning season, but to play baseball in October. Management has made the moves this year that are required to make that happen. They went out and signed Russell Martin and Francisco Liriano. They traded for Marlon Byrd, John Buck, and Justin Morneau. They made effective use of the AAA players available to them, both to cover spots briefly, and for more long-term callups, like with Gerrit Cole. The additions to the team since 2012 have been huge, impacting the team positively in multiple ways.
This all goes to show the Pirates aren’t playing baseball this year in the hopes of finishing as a mediocre team with a winning record. They’re here to take a shot at a run deep into the playoffs, and comparing them to other contenders, there’s no reason to believe they can’t do just that. The Pirates are a team bound for October, at this point it’s more a question of whether or not they can avoid the one game wild card playoff, rather than whether or not they’ll make the playoffs at all. To take the next step towards that goal, they’ll give the ball to Papa Francisco tonight, looking for a sweep in Milwaukee, and the Pirates first winning record since 1992.