The Pirates haven’t reached that level since 1992. And after 20 years of losing, they’ve finally ended the losing streak in the most unlikeliest of ways. Travis Snider came up big in the top of the ninth inning, hitting a solo homer, which was his fourth of the year, and giving the Pirates a 4-3 lead and their eventual streak ending 81st win of the season. Just like it was drawn up when the Brad Lincoln trade was made.
It was ironic that Snider came up big with the pinch hit homer. The only other Pirates to record hits on the night were Andrew McCutchen, Justin Morneau, and Marlon Byrd. The latter two combined to go 5-for-6 with two walks. Byrd was brought in largely because Snider underperformed this year in right field. He was responsible for knocking in two runs, but it was surprisingly Snider who came up with the big hit in the end.
Gerrit Cole had a good start, giving up two runs on five hits and one walk in six innings. Cole has now made 15 starts. 14 of those starts have gone 5+ innings with three or fewer runs. As I mentioned the other night, Cole isn’t a top of the rotation starter yet, but he’s been a very solid #4-5 pitcher. A guy who can give you an average of six innings and 2-3 runs every time out is something any team would take. There were some moments when Cole didn’t look as sharp tonight, and it’s important to note that he has passed his 2012 innings totals. However, with some offensive support, Cole was able to get the job done.
Andrew McCutchen started the scoring for the Pirates, hitting a solo homer in the first inning for the 100th of his career. The Pirates quickly fell behind to Milwaukee 2-1 in the bottom of the first, with Cole getting off to a rough start. He was a bit unfortunate that inning, as he didn’t give up many hard hit balls. McCutchen kept reaching base, picking up a walk and a single. He kept advancing thanks to Justin Morneau, who had a walk and three hits on the night. And McCutchen scored two more times thanks to Marlon Byrd, giving McCutchen all three of the non-Snider runs.
That kind of production is exactly what you want to see from the middle of the order, and something the Pirates haven’t seen a lot this year. Byrd and Morneau won’t continue to go 5-for-6 each night, but they do add a threat behind McCutchen, allowing the Pirates to capitalize on the production from their MVP candidate.
The 81st win ends the losing streak. The next step is win number 82, for the first winning season since 1992. That could come tomorrow, and if it does, it has the added bonus of a sweep over the Brewers in Milwaukee — a team that has tormented the Pirates (especially in Milwaukee) over the last few years. Each win gives Pirates fans a cause for celebration, although they’re both just stops along the way to something bigger. That would be a playoff race, and with tonight’s win and a loss by the St. Louis Cardinals, the Pirates take a two game lead in the NL Central.