Last night, the Pittsburgh Pirates defeated the Texas Rangers to snap a four-game losing streak and put them one game back of the St. Louis Cardinals in the NL Central. It was also their 82nd win of the season.
For most teams, that mark would be no big deal. For the Pirates, it means they will finish this season with a winning record. For the first time in 20 years.
Entering this season, the Buccos had finished with a losing record every year since 1993. The last time the Pirates had a winning team was when they were within one out of making the World Series in 1992. That team had Barry Bonds and Cy Young-winner Doug Drabek and a core of role players that lifted Pittsburgh to three straight divisional titles.
But then came the Slide.
Game seven of the National League Championship Series in Atlanta, Pirates are up 2-1 on the Braves with two out in the bottom of the ninth. Pinch-hitter Francisco Cabrera steps to the plate with the bases loaded. He hits a single to left field, bringing home David Justice. Sid Bream chugged his way from second, around third, and toward the plate. Bonds whips a throw to home plate, Bream slides under the tag of catch Mike LaValliere for the winning run.
After the 1992 season, Bonds left for San Francisco, the core of the Pirates was dismantled, and the team began losing. And losing. And losing. And the Slide became the worst moment in sports history for a generation of Pirates fans. Two decades later, thanks to a group of young stars like Walker, Andrew McCutchen, and Gerrit Cole playing alongside seasoned veterans like AJ Burnett, Russell Martin, and Jason Grilli, the Bucs are back to being winners.
And with a playoff spot on the line, September baseball once again means something in the city of Pittsburgh.
Photo: Pittsburgh Pirates' Marlon Byrd, right, is congratulated in the dugout by Justin Morneau (66) and others after scoring on a double by Pedro Alvarez in the seventh inning, Monday, Sept. 9, 2013, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)