For the first time since 1992, the Pittsburgh Pirates will finish with a winning record. Think about that and just breath it in for a second. Just enjoy it.
The "82 wins" post will come later tonight, because I've been writing it for eight years now and it's still somehow not finished. For now, let's talk about the game that brough us #82.
Gerrit Cole took the mound tonight on a mission. That's a cliche, of course, but I don't know how else to say it. From the beginning, Cole had a full array of pitches at his beck and call. He had his 98+ mph four-seam fastball, he had a slightly slower two-seamer with some serious bite on it, he had what I think was an 89-91 mph changeup that occasionally made it 60 feet, 1 inch and then just kind of stopped. He had his hard, diving slider and I'm pretty sure I even saw a few bigger curveballs mixed in. The Rangers just looked silly trying to hit against him tonight, flailing madly and changeups and sliders in the dirt, or just staring dumbly at four-seamers that exploded past them when they were least prepared for it. Cole struck out nine hitters in his seven innings of work and if not for a hiccup in the sixth (after he got ahead of Elvis Andrus 0-2 on a fastball that made Andrus fall over, he walked Andrus and Alex Rios and ran his pitch count up) he might have had a shot at a complete game tonight.
The problem is that for most of the night Yu Darvish was nearly as good. Before the game started John Wehner mentioned that he'd heard that facing Darvish is quite a task for hitters that have never seen him before, and it showed for most of the game tonight. The Pirates strike out quite a bit, but they were really off-balance with Darvish's mix of fastballs and slow-curves and who-knows-what-else. Andrew McCutchen singled in the first and Jose Tabata singled in the fifth, but that was pretty much all the Pirates had for the first 6+ innings. It looked like the Pirates were going to go down meekly in the top of the seventh without giving Cole much of a breather after his tough sixth, but then Marlon Byrd doubled through the no-doubles defense and Pedro Alvarez (who looked terrible his first two times up against Darvish) somehow laid off of a looping two-strike 77-mph breaking ball, fouled the next breaking pitch back, and then slapped a fastball into the left-center gap for a double to score Byrd.
That was all the Pirates were going to get against Darvish and company, but it turned out that with Cole, Tony Watson, and Mark Melancon, that was all they needed.
Gerrit Cole flat-out dominated and Pedro Alvarez drove in the only run. That's what the win that clinched the Pirates' first winning season since 1992 looked like. Pretty fitting, isn't it?