Cole's stellar start gives Pirates' elusive 82nd victory
ARLINGTON, Texas — The owners changed. The coaches changed. The players changed. But the losing — 20 consecutive seasons of it — did not change until Monday night, when the Pirates beat the Texas Rangers, 1-0.
The Pirates' 82nd win of the year ended the longest streak of losing seasons among North American pro sports teams.
“I've never suffered through anything for 20 years,” said rookie right-hander Gerrit Cole, who tossed seven brilliant innings for the victory. “I don't think there's anybody in here who has. We're just all happy we can bring a smile to people's faces. They can wake up tomorrow, read the newspaper and see ‘82,' and they should embrace it. They should love it.”
On Sept. 12, 1992, the setting of the Pirates' previous winning season, Cole was 2 years old. Alex Rodriguez hadn't yet been drafted. The expansion teams in Colorado, Arizona, Tampa Bay and Miami didn't yet exist. And now-defunct Trans World Airlines was still flying into the sparkling new Pittsburgh International Airport.
“I didn't realize it had been that long until I got here,” said veteran shortstop Clint Barmes, who is in his second season with the Pirates. Barmes played the previous nine years with Colorado and Houston.
“It's great to break that streak and bring that to the city of Pittsburgh,” Barmes said. “But it would mean more to go to the playoffs and bring home a ring. That's the mindset in this clubhouse, and that's where we believe we can be.”
Last year, the Pirates seemed poised to end their losing skid. They were 16 games over .500 on Aug. 1 but won only 19 of their final 58 games.
“We've had a lot of years of losing,” center fielder Andrew McCutchen said. “It feels like a dream almost.”
This season the club again got off to a hot start and has been in either first or second place in the NL Central every day since June 21. Another epic collapse does not seem likely, which makes win No. 82 just another step toward a playoff berth.
“It's one of the mile markers along the way to where we anticipate going,” manager Clint Hurdle said. “We've got vision that goes past that.”
It's fitting that two homegrown players — Cole and third baseman Pedro Alvarez, both former first-round draft picks — were instrumental in producing No. 82.
Cole scattered three singles over seven innings and racked up a career-high nine strikeouts. Alvarez delivered the winning hit.
The Pirates weren't able to crack Rangers ace Yu Darvish until the seventh inning. With two outs, Marlon Byrd lined a double to left field. Alvarez fouled off three tough pitches, then stroked an RBI double to center.
“It's not very comfortable, facing (Darvish),” Alvarez said. “He throws a lot of pitches for strikes and changes speeds on you. You just have to stay as focused as you can because he can really get you off balance.”
The Alvarez RBI snapped Darvish's streak of 19 2⁄3 scoreless innings in interleague games. He left the game after the seventh inning because of cramping in his right leg.
From the start, Cole (7-7) had more fire on his fastball than Darvish (12-8). Cole humped it up to 98 mph in the first inning, when Elvis Andrus stared at a four-seamer for strike three.
The curveball also was effective, especially when Cole kept it down in the zone. Ian Kinsler, Mitch Moreland and Jim Adduci (twice) went down flailing at curves in the dirt. Adduci strained his biceps when he whiffed in the fifth and was replaced by David Murphy.