MILWAUKEE – Technically, the Pirates do not clinch a non-losing season until they reach 82 wins.
However remote and unlikely, it is possible to lose 24 straight games then qualify for, and lose in, a one-game playoff. The playoff counts as a regular season game and the Pirates would finish with an 81-82 record. Wouldn’t that be a tale of misery?
But in order for that to come into play the Pirates would have to make MLB history. The longest consecutive games losing streak is 24 games by the 1899 Cleveland Spiders. The Pittsburgh Alleghenys – who later became the Pirates – lost 23 straight in 1890. The Pirates would have to lose 25 straight. Yeah, that ain’t happening, so I think it’s safe to celebrate, Pittsburgh.
And you can thank the unlikeliest of heroes, Travis Snider, for ending it on Tuesday.
Snider doesn’t show much emotion on the field but he made a single emphatic clap of the hand in rounding first in the ninth inning Tuesday. His home run and hand clap was a symbolic slamming closed of the longest consecutive seasonal losing streak in North American pro sports history.
Snider didn’t think to have much of a role after the acquisitions of Marlon Byrd and Justin Morneau last week. He was on the bench for the the first eight innings Tuesday, just recalled from Double-A as rosters expanded.
He was not warm entering his pinch-hitting opportunity.
“The cage here is one of the smaller, more claustrophobic-feeling cages. I try to avoid it all costs,” Snider said of the visiting batting cage. “I took some early batting practice today. But luckily we have a lot of room in the clubhouse to run around and get loose.”
But he slammed the seventh pitch he saw from Jim Henderson deep into the right-field seats.
Snider was pumped. So was the team.
Neil Walker, who knows the streak better than anyone on the team being a Pittsburgh native, emerged from the clubhouse into the stadium bowels exclaiming “81! 81!” I think he was only half kidding.
There has been a disconnect regarding the meaning of the streak between the clubhouse and the fan base.
Most of the players in the clubhouse have little to do with the streak, and little experience with it.
Yet, national and local reporters keep asking these players about it day-in and day-out.
“It’s 20 years so, yeah, we’re aware of it,” Charlie Morton said. “The season is so long something like that adds unnecessarily. It’s a fact. It would be a load off of our back, especially in terms of the organization and the city. We’d like to do it for the fans because it’s been a while. But in here (in the clubhouse) it’s not enough. A winning season, albeit an achievement … but where we are right now it’s not a high enough bar. I think that’s how everyone looks at it.”
A day after Gerrit Cole extinguished two candles on his second birthday cake, Sept. 9, 1992, was the last time the Pirates reached 81 wins.
On Tuesday at Miller Park, the 22-year-old Cole helped extinguish the Pirates’ streak of consecutive losing seasons.
Cole has been around the team for three months, and Marlon Byrd and Justin Morneau have a week or less of experience with The Streak, acquired in trades last week.
Morneau was amused and surprised by the amount of media attention paid to the streak prior to Tuesday’s game.
There is a disconnect. And that’s OK. Pittsburgh the city has lived with the streak for two decades. These players haven’t. And that’s a very good thing or else perception and things discussed off the field might begin to bend on the field happenings.
And without Cole, Byrd and Morneau the streak might still be alive.
Morneau went 3-for-3 and batted in Andrew McCutchen to tied the score at 2 in the third. Byrd plated McCutchen in the eighth with an RBI double, to give the Pirates a 3-2 lead.
I know many of you want 82. And you’ll get it soon enough. To me the streak is dead.
I’m looking forward to moving beyond so we can focus more energy and ink on what is more exciting: a September pennant race.
And by the way, your Pirates now have a two-game lead in the NL Central.