ARLINGTON, Texas — Back-to-back, two-out doubles from Pittsburgh’s Marlon Byrd and Pedro Alvarez in the seventh inning provided the Pirates all the cushion they would need to beat the Texas Rangers and ace Yu Darvish 1-0 Monday night at Rangers Ballpark.
Pirates youngster Gerrit Cole pitched a three-hit gem that helped snap the Pirates’ season-long losing skid at four games and pulled them within one game of the St. Louis Cardinals for the lead in the National League Central, while moving them a full game ahead of the Cincinnati Reds in the wildcard race.
However, Pittsburgh’s 82nd win in the 143rd game of the season was also an historic one, assuring the franchise its first winning season since 1992.
“As I’ve said before, this is going to touch a lot of people on a lot of different levels,” Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. “Everybody’s here this season for a reason, and it’s to knock down some things that haven’t been done in a long time. … I am happy for a lot of people. This is meaningful, really meaningful.”
The Rangers, meanwhile, saw their deficit in the American League West grow to two games with the Oakland A’s having the night off. The division-leading A’s come to
Texas on Friday for a three-game set, the final series between the two clubs that have battled back-and-forth all season.
Darvish fell to 12-8, but he did deliver the bounce-back start the Rangers needed. He just didn’t have the luck, again, as he lost for the third time this season by a 1-0 score.
With two out and the bases empty in the seventh, Byrd smoked a double into the left-field corner. Alvarez followed with a line drive to center to score Byrd for the 1-0 lead. Darvish would limit the damage to the one run, but the hard-throwing right-hander would not come out for the eighth inning due to cramping in the lower part of his right leg, according to the team.
“This is what it is, it’s baseball,” the Japanese pitcher said through an interpreter of another hard-luck loss. “Sometimes the offense can’t score; some days they might score 20 runs. Sometimes you may throw a no-hitter. This is what it is. The hitters, they did their best. Today I did my best.”
His disappointing night, though, ended after just 81 pitches. Darvish allowed just four hits, struck out six and walked one. He didn’t allow a runner past first base until the seventh-inning doubles. Rangers officials said the team did not want to risk injury by allowing Darvish, the major’s strikeout leader, to continue.
The team said Darvish underwent treatment and, at this point, is expected to make his next start on Saturday against the A’s.
Davish, who last notched a win on Aug. 12, said he didn’t cramp up, but acknowledged that it is physically taxing to be at your best this late into the season.
Cole outdueled Texas’ Cy Young candidate, pitching seven scoreless innings and allowing just three hits. He struck out nine and at one point sat down four in a row, including striking out the side in the fifth inning.
“I was just happy I was able to come out and match him (Darvish),” Cole said. “He’s one of the best pitchers in the league and fortunately I was able to keep the ball in the ballpark here, which is not easy. I was able to keep them off-balance enough to give us a chance to score.”
His only trouble came in the sixth after he consecutively walked Elvis Andrus and Alex Rios with two outs. After a double steal that moved the runners to second and third, Cole got cleanup hitter Adrian Beltre to ground out to shortstop.
“You’re always one pitch away from that thing blowing up there in the sixth, especially when they got the double steal and got both runners in scoring position,” Cole said. “I knew I had to make some pitches to Beltre where there’s really no scouting report; the guy hits everything. So, fortunately got ahead of him and kept going with my best stuff.”
Cole, a UCLA product who was searching for his first win since Aug. 16, then pitched a 1-2-3 seventh inning, ending his night at 92 pitches, 64 of which were strikes. He allowed three singles, all with two out.
Pirates left-handed reliever Tony Watson retired the Rangers in order in the eighth and right-hander Mark Melancon closed it out in the ninth.