The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Local Sports

June 15, 2009

Victory over Tigers keeps Pirates in NL Central race

By JOHN PERROTTO — Just when it looked like the Pirates had given up on 2009 to continue their perpetual rebuilding process, something very interesting happened in the National League Central standings.

The Pirates are just four games behind first-place Milwaukee. They are contenders less than two weeks after trading All-Star center fielder Nate McLouth to Atlanta for three minor-leaguers, a move that seemed to signal the raising of the white flag on 2009.

The Pirates won for the fourth time in the past five games Sunday as they beat the Detroit Tigers 6-3 in a walkathon at PNC Park. The win improved their record to 30-33.

“I know the perception to people on the outside might have been that we were giving up on this season, but nobody in this clubhouse ever said we were,” Pirates corner utility player Eric Hinske said. “Nate is a great player and a great friend, but you just can’t quit because he’s not here anymore. That’s the way the business goes. You move on and keep fighting.”

Pirates manager John Russell certainly thinks his team is in the thick of the race.

“If it were any other team in baseball that was (four) games out, people would say we were in contention,” Russell said. “But because we’re Pittsburgh and we’re the Pirates, nobody says anything. Everyone just talks about the streak. We’re right there, though.”

Russell is referring to Pirates’ string of

16 straight losing seasons, matching the 1933-48 Philadelphia Phillies for the longest streak of futility in American professional sports history.

Hinske, though, has some perspective on dramatic turnovers as he played for Tampa Bay last season when it won the American League pennant. The Rays had lost at least 91 games in each of their first 10 years of existence.

“It’s happened before,” Hinske said. “Nobody gave us any more of a chance to win in Tampa last year than they gave us at the start of this year. One reason why I think it’s possible for us is the pitching. We have the type of pitching that is going to keep us in the game most nights.

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