ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — Barry Bonds was the slugger in the middle of their lineup, and Doug Drabek was the ace of a rotation that included a rookie knuckleballer named Tim Wakefield.
That was the Pittsburgh Pirates, circa 1992, when the average cost of a gallon of gas was $1.13 and they had their last winning season — until now.
"It's a sports town, a blue-collar town. They love guys that work hard, but they also want their winners," said outfielder Marlon Byrd, one of the newest Pirates. "They've been waiting a long time for this. We're giving this city something to cheer about, and it's big."
The Pirates got their 83rd victory with a 5-4 victory at Texas on Tuesday, a night after a 1-0 win over Yu Darvish for No. 82 that ensured their first winning record in 21 seasons.
The two wins to clinch the series against AL wild-card-leading Texas came after a four-game losing streak, including a three-game sweep at NL Central-leading St. Louis.
For long-suffering baseball fans in Pittsburgh, where the NFL's Steelers and NHL's Penguins won championships and had only a combined seven losing seasons in that span of more than two decades, the Pirates' winning season was front-page news Tuesday in both of the city's major newspapers.
It was the lead story on newscasts and the hot topic on sports radio, even more than the Steelers, who lost their season opener on Sunday.
Still, these Pirates want much more. They want to get to their first World Series since the "We Are Family" team managed by Chuck Tanner won the title in 1979.
"That's where every team should be. That's why we play this game," All-Star center fielder Andrew McCutchen said Tuesday. "It's definitely something we believe in now as a team. First you believe in what you can do personally, then you believe in each other. ... I've always been sure."
Pittsburgh remained a game behind the Cardinals, who beat Milwaukee 4-2 on Tuesday night. With 18 games remaining, the Pirates want to win a division title and not settle for a wild card.
"We set the bar very high in spring training. We weren't talking about competing, we weren't going to talk about being better than last year," said Clint Hurdle, their third-year manager. " I love the way (the players) are going about it. It's consistent first and foremost. They're still having fun. ... The preparation, the focus has been there since opening day, and all the way through spring training. The club you're seeing right now is pretty much the club I saw in April, May, June and July."
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