“We have a greater goal ahead of us”

Tonight’s 1-0 win over the Texas Rangers was a quiet one.  It was led by Gerrit Cole’s best performance of the year.  Its lone run came courtesy of a Pedro Alvarez RBI double.  What wasn’t quiet was the effect of tonight’s win.  It was the Pirates’ 82nd win of the season.  It ensured that they will have a winning season in 2013 for the first time since 1992.

The Pirates and Rangers came into tonight’s game with the exact same record, both 1.5 games out of first place in their respective divisions.  Gerrit Cole entered tonight’s game with six wins and a 3.74 ERA.  His mound opponent, Yu Darvish, came in with twelve wins and a 2.91 ERA.  Cole has had a few rocky starts lately, and the Pirates were coming off of a four-game losing streak, including a sweep by the Cardinals in St. Louis that dropped the Bucs out of first place.

Each pitcher gave up a two-out single in the first.  Both pitchers were dominant.  Cole struck out nine Rangers; Darvish struck out six Pirates.  Cole scattered just three hits; Darvish gave up just four.  But the timeliness of those hits made all the difference.

i-7With two outs in the seventh inning, Marlon Byrd doubled to left field.  Pedro Alvarez came to bat with two outs and Byrd on second.  He worked the count to 2-2 and fouled off a slider before driving a fastball to left center field for an opposite field RBI double.  Byrd scored easily, and the Pirates had the run they needed and the only run that anyone would get.

Tony Watson came in for the eighth inning and, 16 pitches later, had himself a perfect inning, sending the Pirates to the ninth inning.  A one-out triple by Andrew McCutchen, his second hit of the game, went to waste on a fielder’s choice out at home.  But it wouldn’t matter.

Mark Melancon came in to close the game, and Gaby Sanchez came in to play first base.

Elvis Andrus hit a ground ball to Pedro on Melancon’s first pitch.  Pedro fielded the ball and threw it to Gaby.  One out.i-6

Alex Rios hit a ground ball to Neil Walker.  Neil fielded it and threw to Gaby.  Two outs.

Adrian Beltre, just to make things exciting, singled to left field.

AJ Pierzynski came to bat, once again the Rangers’ last hope.  He swung at the first pitch and hit another ground ball to Neil Walker.  Neil fielded the ball and threw it to Gaby.  Three outs.

Melancon had his 12th save.  The Pirates had their 82nd win.

Gerrit Cole earned his seventh win and lowered his ERA to 3.48.  His nine strikeouts were a career high for the rookie right-hander.  Cole was just two years old when the Pirates had their last winning season.  What did he think of win number 82?  “I wish I had a better answer for you guys, but I just treated it like any other game,” he responded.  “I think we’re all happy and really glad that we could put a lot of smiles on Pittsburgh fans’ faces.”

Tonight’s win, along with a Reds loss and a Cardinals off day, gave the Pirates sole possession of second place, just a game behind the Cardinals.

As the Pirates all realize, and as Cole so perfectly put into words, “We have a greater goal ahead of us.”

The Pirates have a winning season.  And it’s just a step.  A win tomorrow, combined with a Cardinals loss, could put the Pirates back into a tie for first place.  There are 19 games left and a division to win.

 

In case you missed it: The surprising truth about Michael McKenry

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