The Pittsburgh Pirates clinched their second consecutive playoff berth Tuesday night with their win over the Atlanta Braves along with the Milwaukee Brewers loss to Cincinnati. The win in Atlanta comes 22 years after Sid Bream’s play at the plate that cost the Pirates the 1992 National League Championship Series in Atlanta. Mostly every Pittsburgh sports fan knows or has at least seen the clip of Bream sliding in safely before Barry Bonds’ throw from left field and catcher Mike Lavalliere’s tag were in time. That loss spiraled 20 consecutive losing seasons for the Pirates, which is considered the longest streak in the four major professional sports. This came after winning three straight National League East titles from 1990-1992. That one play could easily be the most dwelled upon in the history of Pittsburgh professional sports and seemed to sting increasingly each time you viewed it.
Every year before each MLB season there was always an optimism surrounding the city that this was going to be the year that the Pirates were going to have a winning season, or at least flirt with the idea. April and May usually wouldn’t turn out too bad, but the Bucs just couldn’t find the chemistry and play to hold a chance from the All-Star break and on. Somehow the conversation always led back to home plate on that autumn night in Atlanta.
After last year’s incredible push to find the playoffs for the first time since that play occurred, the Pirates have found themselves again in the postseason catching fire at exactly the right time. They have played .590 ball since the All-Star break and have showed no signs of slowing down. Watching the Pirates finish the Braves off Tuesday night in Atlanta was very bittersweet and there couldn’t have been a better setting to clinch a playoff spot. It seemed very clear by their reaction after “turning two” to end the game, that there are bigger goals ahead in the month of October for the Buccos. Playing past the regular season was the real focus of last year’s team, which is understandable considering the organization struggled to even think about reaching the .500 mark for the last 20 years. This year these guys believe that the unthinkable goal of a World Series berth a few years ago, has turned into a complete reality at the pace they are playing.
The Pirates have made the statement that they are here to stay in the mix of postseason ball for many years to come. Major League Baseball knows that the Pirates are ready to make plenty of noise in the next couple of weeks as a dark horse. Whether the clip of Sid Bream gets tucked back into the archives or not, there is no looking back for the city of Pittsburgh.