ARLINGTON, Texas —
Pittsburgh Pirates manager Clint Hurdle had no special message for his team and there was no big celebration after what was a special victory for their long-suffering fans.
With their 1-0 victory at Texas last night, the Pirates clinched their first winning season since 1992. But victory No. 82 was really just another step toward their goal of getting into the playoffs.
“It’s going to touch a lot of people on a lot of different levels. We are aware of it,” Hurdle said. “Everybody’s here for a reason, and that’s to knock down things we haven’t done in a long time.”
Before rookie right-hander Gerrit Cole (7-7) threw seven scoreless innings with a career-high nine strikeouts to win a pitcher’s duel against Yu Darvish, the Pirates hadn’t had a winning season in more than two decades — since the last of their three consecutive NL championship series appearances under manager Jim Leyland. Their last postseason before that was the 1979 World Series championship team.
“We don’t really understand what the fans have been through. I know it definitely puts a smile on their face when they see that No. 82 up there,” Cole said. “We’re extremely happy to be able to make them feel like we’ve got a winning team out there. But we’ve got a few weeks ahead and those are going to be some real big games.”
Pittsburgh had lost a season-high four games in a row since getting their 81st victory last Tuesday at Milwaukee.
The Pirates (82-61) didn’t get a runner to second base against Darvish (12-8) until Marlon Byrd’s two-out double in the seventh. He came home when Pedro Alvarez, mired in a 5-for-41 slump over 12 games, followed with a double.
They finally have their winning season after taking the opener of a three-game interleague series between wild-card leaders.
“It’s a huge deal for me. It certainly thrills me to be a part of that,” said Pirates hitting coach Jay Bell, the shortstop on that 1992 team.
“I understand the significance of this game, the 82nd win, more than probably at least most of the players here,” said second baseman Neil Walker, the team’s first-round pick in 2004. “As big as this win is for the city of Pittsburgh and the organization, and as big a deal as the media is going to make out of it, we still have a lot of baseball to play. We’ve got a lot of games we need to win, we’re in a tight race.”
The Pirates moved within a game of NL Central-leading St. Louis, which swept Pittsburgh in three games over the weekend.
Texas lost for the fourth time in five games, and still needs one more win to clinch its fifth consecutive winning season. The Rangers dropped two games behind idle AL West-leading Oakland.
Darvish is 0-3 his last five starts, all Rangers losses. The Japanese right-hander struck out six while allowing one run and four hits over seven innings. He threw a season-low 81 pitches before coming out because of cramping in his right leg.
Manager Ron Washington said the move was precautionary.
“We needed him to step up and he stepped up tonight, he really threw the ball well, he moved the ball around well, he kept it down in the zone, he did a good job,” Washington said. “He’s in great shape. It’s just something that flared up. If that’s all that’s wrong with him, and the way he pitched out there tonight, I’ll take it.”
Cole got out of a self-induced jam in the sixth after consecutive walks to Elvis Andrus and Alex Rios, his only walks in the game. Andrus got his 38th career stolen base — the Rangers pulled off a double steal when Rios reached before Adrian Beltre grounded out.
“The sixth inning could have gotten out of hand,” Cole said. “I was just able to get the ball down on them.”
Tony Watson pitched a perfect eighth, his 14th consecutive scoreless outing. Mark Melancon worked the ninth for his 12th save in 14th chances to close out Pittsburgh’s 16th shutout of the season.
The Rangers said Darvish started feeling the cramps during the seventh. There was a short delay after the Rangers took the field in the eighth before Tanner Scheppers came out of the bullpen.
“It’s minor,” Washington said. “No level of concern.”