Players chanted “MVP! MVP!” as they doused Andrew McCutchen in the visitors’ clubhouse, two decades of futility finally washed away.
The last time the Pirates made the play-offs, Barry Bonds was in the middle of the order. The average price of fuel was US$1.13 a gallon. Yes, it had been that long.
The Pirates are going to the play-offs for the first time in 21 years, clinching at least a National League wild card when they beat the Chicago Cubs 2-1 and the Washington Nationals lost to St Louis. And they hope that is just the start, not the end.
“We’re definitely not done,” McCutchen said. “We’ve got some games left. We still could move farther.”
Now, they can turn their attention toward bigger goals, the kind that seemed like nothing more than a pipe dream through all those losing seasons.
It will be Pittsburgh’s first trip to the postseason since Bonds, Jim Leyland and Co won three straight NL East titles from 1990-92. Bonds then left for San Francisco as a free agent, and the small-budget Pirates piled up 20 consecutive losing records – the longest streak in the four major American professional sports.
“For me, it’s not about the last 21 years,” Russell Martin said. “For me, it was just about this year, and what we could do this year. They had a good season last year, lost some steam late in September, but I knew that if you’re having a good season all the way into September, you know you have a good club.”
Starling Marte hit a tiebreaking homer in the ninth inning at Wrigley Field, and the Pirates threw out a runner at the plate for the final out.
The Pirates sprayed each other with bubbly and beer and sparkling cider in the visitors’ clubhouse once St Louis’ 4-3 win over the Nationals became final.
The Cincinnati Reds also clinched at least a wild-card berth, when they beat the New York Mets 3-2 in 10 innings. The Pirates and Reds, both 90-67, trail St Louis by two games in the NL Central with five to go.
Pittsburgh players sang Journey’s Don’t Stop Believing. They took pictures and manager Clint Hurdle had them gather for a group photo in the middle of the cramped visitors’ clubhouse.
“The people of Pittsburgh have been waiting a long time,” said Neil Walker, who homered.
The Pirates’ last trip to the play-offs ended with Atlanta’s Sid Bream sliding home with the winning run in the bottom of the ninth inning of game seven of the 1992 NL championship series.
It was the second straight day an opponent celebrated at Wrigley Field. Atlanta clinched the NL East on Sunday, and this time, it was the Pirates’ turn to party.
“That’s what we need to do,” Jeff Samardzija of the Cubs said. “We’re getting there, but we need to get some things ironed out.”