Bucs not satisfied with securing winning season
McCutchen views victory No. 82 as 'stepping stone' toward higher goals
ARLINGTON -- The Pirates got over the hump -- of 20 years or of four games, depending on whether you looked long-range or short -- and could see forever.
"It's cool," Garrett Jones said of Monday night's win No. 82, the one that officially ended a generation of losing Pittsburgh baseball teams. "This leaves a good taste in our mouths. We took another step in the direction we want to go -- get in the playoffs, get in the World Series, get the ring."
"Just another stepping stone," said Andrew McCutchen, the dreadlocked-face of the franchise. "We'll continue to keep pushing, keep moving forward."
Hitting coach Jay Bell, who played shortstop on the 1992 Pirates, the last previous ones to post a winning record, acknowledged win No. 82, then figuratively tossed it aside.
"We don't want to be classified as just being mediocre. Eighty-two wins is mediocre," Bell said. "It's not excellent, and we have a team full of guys who are very talented and have the qualities to be excellent.
"I look forward to them giving us the greatest opportunity to win a World Series. That's what we want to do."
Club chairman Bob Nutting will always be in their ears, reminding them of that.
"As we have said, our single focus has been on building a club that can compete for the postseason and also can sustain that level of success for the long-term. Winning 82 games is not and will never be the goal we set for this organization," Nutting said. "This obviously was an important step in the process. I am excited this team was able to move beyond the focus on breaking .500 for all of our fans. I cannot personally thank our fans enough for their continued passion and support."
Monday night's definitive hero could also relate the club's breakthrough to that fan support. Gerrit Cole was two years old the last time the Pirates won an 82nd game. He did the honors on the pitching side for 82-redux.
"I know since I came here in June," said Cole, referring to his promotion from Triple-A Indianapolis, "I think I can count on one hand how many times I haven't seen the ballpark sold out. We don't really understand what the fans have been through, but we know it puts a smile on their face when they see that number 82. I think we're extremely happy to make them feel like we got a winning team out there, but we have a few weeks ahead and those are going to be some big games."
The Pirates were elated to kill "82" as a subject of conversation.
"It means I don't have to talk about it anywhere," McCutchen said. "It's really what I'm most excited about. That's all you hear, that's all I've heard ever since coming up in the Minor League system into the big leagues. Losing, losing, losing, losing. That's all you hear after a while. I'm most excited I don't have to talk about it anymore. We can put it to rest and move forward."
Did the hill to 82 keep getting steeper with each loss in a string that reached four, but felt longer because of the circumstances?
"Maybe there's something to that," allowed Bell who, Monday night's pitching-earned victory notwithstanding, has seen his hitters collect 13 hits and three runs in their last three games. "It has certainly been in the forefront for a long, long time. And for us to finally go over the 81 mark is really special for a lot of fans, media, coaches."
For the Bucs to get the depression-busting win in the manner they did, it was reminiscent of that old gag about a guy banging his head on a door -- because it felt so good when he stopped.
The Pirates had been run out of St. Louis, losing three games so convincingly, manager Clint Hurdle called it "the first time the entire year we pretty much had it handed to us for three days."
To come back from that thrashing to beat a tough American League club in its home and with its ace on the hill dramatically evidenced the resilience that has been a part of the team's DNA all year.
"We still showed up," McCutchen said. "We know it's not going to get easier. We've got to keep going. But this win today showed what kind of team we have."
It could be the kind of team that, as Bell said, "can make it happen for the next seven, eight weeks of the season."
As any fan with access to a calendar knows, the season itself has only three weeks remaining. Those other weeks are on the other side of the finish line, a line the Bucs intend to cross.
Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. He can also be found on Twitter @Tom_Singer. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.