PITTSBURGH (AP) — What started as a season of promise for the Pittsburgh Pirates is nearing a familiar end.
The Pirates ensured they would finish with a record 20th straight losing season Sunday when they blew a ninth-inning lead in a 4-3 defeat to the Cincinnati Reds.
“Everyone’s pretty ticked off about it,” Pirates first baseman Garrett Jones said.
Pinch-hitter Xavier Paul led off the ninth with a home run off Joel Hanrahan (5-2) and Zack Cozart had a go-head double for Cincinnati, who clinched home-field advantage in the NL division series. The Reds moved into a tie with Washington, who lost to St. Louis, for the best record in the league at 96-63
The Pirates extended their major North American professional sports record for losing seasons. Pittsburgh was 16 games over .500 on Aug. 6, but has lost 18 of 23 to fall to 77-82.
“I’m disappointed,” second-year manager Clint Hurdle said. “One of my goals when I got here was to re-bond this city with this baseball team and to be a group of men who do that collectively. So it’s definitely disappointing — especially when we were able to get to a certain point of the year where we were talking playoffs ... and ultimately it all got away from us.”
The Pirates haven’t had a winning season since topping the NL East in 1992. Only twice in the 19 seasons in between have they won more than 77 games, and Pittsburgh has three games left to match or surpass the 79 wins the 1997 team had.
But in none of the previous years since 1992 had the Pirates been so far over .500 or holding a playoff spot for so long. Pittsburgh was in first place from July 3-14 and July 18 but fell to 19 games behind Cincinnati with Sunday’s defeat.
“It’s unfortunate, where we were halfway through the season and how good we were playing and where we were headed, to have it kind of fall apart,” Jones said. “Nobody saw it coming.”
Kind of like the events of the ninth inning, one in which two former Pirates played prominent roles.