82 wins! Pirates clinch first winning season since 1992

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Because nothing can ever be easy for the Pirates their 81st victory of the season last week was followed by four consecutive losses and tonight they matched up against Yu Darvish and the Rangers in Texas.

After six scoreless innings the Pirates scraped together a run off Darvish–with midseason pickup Marlon Byrd doubling and scoring–and three pitchers combined to shut out the Rangers, so go ahead and pop the champagne: Pittsburgh has 82 wins and its first winning season since 1992.

Rookie right-hander and former No. 1 overall pick Gerrit Cole, who out-dueled Darvish with seven scoreless innings, was born in 1990. So yeah, it’s been a while.

After snapping their season-high four-game losing streak the Pirates are 82-61, which puts them 1.0 game back of the idle Cardinals in the NL Central, 1.0 game up on the Reds for homefield advantage in the Wild Card playoff game, and eight games clear of the Nationals for the final playoff spot. Snapping a two-decade streak of losing seasons must feel amazing for the Pirates and their fans right now–and the city of Pittsburgh deserves a great party tonight–but this team no doubt has its sights set on something bigger.

Nationals to reinstate Max Scherzer on Thursday

Max Scherzer
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Some good news for the Nationals today: All-Star hurler Max Scherzer is due back from the injured list this week, this time (hopefully) for good. He’s slated to start during Thursday’s series finale against the Pirates.

It’s been a long road back for the right-hander, who earned his seventh consecutive All-Star designation after heading into the break with a 2.30 ERA, 5.6 fWAR, and a league-leading 7.56 SO/BB rate. An untimely back injury forced him to the injured list in the days leading up to the All-Star Game, however, and he hasn’t returned in any kind of part-time or full-time capacity since.

While Scherzer was originally expected to pitch for the Nationals sometime during their weekend series versus the Brewers, manager Dave Martinez elected to push back his return date by a few days. It’s not clear whether he felt some lingering pain during his 64-pitch simulated start on Saturday or whether the Nationals simply want to play it safe with their ace, but either way, the club apparently feels like Scherzer will be back to full strength before the end of the week.

If so, his return would be a significant asset to the Nationals, who could use a sub-3.00 ERA, 5.0-fWAR starter to help bolster their standing in the NL East. Still, there’s no guarantee that the veteran righty is ready to shoulder a full-time role in Washington’s rotation, nor is it certain that he’ll be able to match his results from the first half of the season. In one start between IL stints last month, he dealt five innings of three-run, two-walk, eight-strikeout ball in an 8-7 loss to the Rockies.