The Pirates string of losing seasons is over — now what?

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They still need one more win for their first winning season since 1992, but that’s inevitable. The Pirates did, however, put and end to their streak of losing seasons last night, notching their 81st win.

At this point it’s probably worth noting that when the Pirates completed their last winning season, “Roseanne,” “Murphy Brown,” Cheers,” “Designing Women” and “Coach” were top TV shows, Boyz II Men, Sir Mix-a-Lot and Kriss Kross had the biggest hits in the nation and this 40 year-old man was still living in a college dorm. Some of you were not even born. It’s been a long time.

The question now: what constitutes the next step of success for the Pirates? Or, rather, what will render this breakthrough season a disappointment?

If they fail to win the division and only get the wild card, is that bad, or are Pirates fans happy? What if they lose the wild card game? More broadly speaking, was .500 always a goal for you, Pirates fans, and the rest gravy, or are you living in the moment and the moment alone, desiring a long playoff run and anticipating disappointment if that does not come to pass?

Kind of an abstract question, I guess. I’m thinking back to 1991 when the Braves broke through after close to a decade of stinking (and nothing but stinking in the time I had been watching and cheering for them). I recall feeling a lot of “happy to be here” feelings as the season wore down and the playoffs sank in as reality. But I also remember all of that happy to be here stuff disappearing as soon as the NLCS actually began and things got real. Of course I still sting over the World Series, which was one deke and baserunning gaffe away from a Braves success. If you can’t be unequivocally happy being that close to winning it all you aren’t treating your team’s surprise success any differently than fans of teams with a long rich recent history of the stuff.

I feel like most Pirates fans will feel the same way. Maybe some high fives and victory laps this week and into next, but then the serious business of winning the division and making a run in October will take precedence. Lack of success in this regard will thus be felt just as strongly by you as it will be by Cardinals or Red Sox fans who have had all kinds of success in recent years.

But tell me if I’m wrong.

Astros claim AL pennant with walk-off win against the Yankees

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Following a rollercoaster performance on Saturday, the Astros clinched the American League Championship Series with a decisive 6-4 walk-off win against the Yankees, claiming their second AL pennant and earning a well-deserved entrance to the World Series.

Both clubs decided to preserve possible Game 7 starters Luis Severino and Gerrit Cole, electing to have a “bullpen day” for a pivotal Game 6. Chad Green took the mound for the Yankees, tossing one inning before handing the ball off to a long line of relievers, while Brad Peacock‘s rare playoff start was capped at 1 2/3 innings. According to ESPN Stats & Info, that made it the first postseason game since 1999 in which neither starting pitcher lasted two innings or longer.

All told, the two clubs utilized a total of 13 pitchers to make it through nine innings. The Astros lost Ryan Pressly to a worrisome knee injury in the third, but were able to lean on José Urquidy for 2 2/3 innings of one-run, five-strikeout ball. Although Yankees’ bullpen fought back in every inning, they had considerable difficulty recovering from Yuli Gurriel‘s three-run homer off of Green in the bottom of the first:

Still, New York managed to get in a couple of knocks as well: first, with Gary Sanchez‘s RBI single in the second inning, then with Gio Urshela‘s 395-foot blast in the fourth inning — the second of his postseason career to date. That wasn’t enough to close the gap, however, and Alex Bregman‘s productive groundout in the sixth helped cushion the Astros’ lead as they headed toward the final few innings of the series.

That lead started to look a little shaky in the ninth. Only three outs away from a ticket to the World Series, Houston closer Roberto Osuna gave up a leadoff single to Urshela, which was quickly followed by a jaw-dropping, full-count, game-tying two-run shot from DJ LeMahieu that barely cleared the right field fence.

With the threat of extra innings and a potential loss looming, the Astros engineered a last-minute rally to regain the lead and stake their claim for the pennant. With two outs and no runners on, George Springer took a five-pitch walk from Aroldis Chapman. In the next at-bat, Houston pinned their hopes on José Altuve — and he didn’t disappoint, lifting a 2-1 slider out to left field for a 406-foot, two-RBI homer that confirmed the Astros’ series win.

The 2019 World Series will mark the third Fall Classic appearance for the Astros and the first for the Nationals. It all begins on Tuesday night.