Let's take a minute here and step back and talk about what just happened on the field at Miller Park:
In the top of the ninth inning of a tie game, Clint Hurdle sent Travis Snider, he of the three home runs and .321 slugging percentage over 266 plate appearances to the plate as a pinch-hitter, and Snider responded with a go-ahead solo home run. Since I'm feeling particularly charitable given the circumstances tonight, I'll gloss over the fact that the Pirates blew their earlier 3-2 lead by leaving Jason Grili and Tony Watson in the bullpen in favor of a second inning for Vin Mazzaro and just enjoy the improbability of a Travis Snider game-winning homer and wonder about how much his toe really did affect his play this year.
There were eight innings leading up to that ninth, of course. For the second time out, Gerrit Cole overcame a rocky start to just shut the opposing team down. He's still not quite where he needs to be in terms of swings and misses, but his performance this year as a 22-year old still ironing his pitches out has been awfully impressive to me. These last couple starts have been particularly impressive to watch; I think the tank is running a bit low, and he's still out there gutting his starts out, getting outs, giving the Pirates a chance to win whenever he's on the mound. The Pirates need that from him. They don't have the starting depth for anything else right now.
One night after Neil Walker and Jose Tabata went nuts and basically drove the Pirates to victory themselves, Andrew McCutchen, Justin Morneau, and Marlon Byrd took care of things tonight. McCutchen homered in the first inning and scored three times. Morneau had three hits, two of which moved McCutchen to third base directly before he scored. That worked out because Marlon Byrd drove McCutchen home twice.
These are the players that contributed heavily to win #81: Gerrit Cole, Travis Snider, Marlon Byrd, Justin Morneau, Mark Melancon, and of course, Andrew McCutchen. All of them were acquired by Neal Huntington one way or another, except for McCutchen, who was in the system when Huntington took over in 2007 and who's been the centerpiece since Day 1. Maybe it took a year or two longer than we Pirate fans would've hoped after the 2007 season, but it's finally happening. It's finally here. With one more win, the Pittsburgh Pirates will have clinched a winning season.
More importantly, though, the Pirates won tonight and the Cardinals lost. With 24 games left on the schedule, the Pittsburgh Pirates have 81 wins a two game lead in the National League Central. Is this real life? Can you believe this?