The Pirates clinched their first winning season since 1992 with a 1-0 victory over the Texas Rangers Monday night. Gerrit Cole was as good as he's ever been in his short big-league career, outdueling Yu Darvish over seven innings. Cole struck out nine, walking two and allowing just three hits. He also pitched with obvious purpose, increasing his velocity as he went along. He walked two batters in the sixth, and those two runners ended up on second and third after a steal and a double steal. But otherwise, Cole kept the Rangers in check throughout.
Darvish was as good as advertised, but the Pirates did manage to score a run when Marlon Byrd hit a two-out double in the seventh and Pedro Alvarez doubled him in with a liner to the gap.
After Cole pitched the seventh, the Bucs turned to Tony Watson in the eighth (they had Bryan Morris warming up at one point, which made me yell at my screen) and then Mark Melancon in the ninth. The Rangers never got particularly close to scoring in those late innings, but I still felt like something Pirate-y was going to happen -- I was waiting for someone to drop a fly ball, or a throw to first, leading to a big rally. That didn't happen, because baseball doesn't really work that way, as much as it sometimes seems like it does when you're a Pirates fan. The late innings were as routine as it gets, and the Rangers' announcers hardly even mentioned the crazy thing that was happening.
The Bucs are now 82-61 on the season. Obviously, with several weeks of baseball left, they should be thinking much bigger than this. But man, this feels great. I feel like a weight has been lifted off my shoulders.