By Gary Hill
The Pittsburgh Pirates sail into Seattle sporting the second-best record in Major League Baseball. They are a full 16 games above the .500 mark (46-30) and feature the third-best ERA in baseball (3.22). They are holding opponents to a .227 batting average against, which is the lowest in MLB by .013. They are currently holding down the first Wild Card spot and they are in position to try and lock down a postseason berth for the first time in a long, long time.
Nick Franklin will take the field tonight for the Mariners with no memory of the Pirates making the postseason. Franklin was born in March of 1991, when the Pirates were in spring training prepping for what would eventually be a 98-64 first-place finish. They made the postseason again in 1992, but they have not experienced the thrill of the playoffs since. The Pirates were ousted three straight years in the NLCS (1990-92).
Andrew McCutchen and the Pirates are gunning for their first winning season and postseason berth since 1992. (AP)
Two players from the last Pittsburgh team to make the postseason have had sons make it to the Big Leagues: Doug Drabek (Kyle Drabek) and Andy Van Slyke (Scott Van Slyke). Raul Ibanez has played his entire 18-year career without the Pirates visiting the playoffs. There have been five presidential elections since the Pirates saw the postseason.
To further press the point, here is the Mariners’ starting lineup on the last day of the season in 1992:
Omar Vizquel, SS
Harold Reynolds, 2B
Ken Griffey Jr., CF
Tino Martinez, 1B
Jay Buhner, RF
Dann Howitt, LF
Bill Haselman, C
Greg Briley, DH
Rich Amaral, 3B
Brian Fisher, P
To make matters more excruciating for Pittsburgh baseball fans, they have not even finished above .500 since 1992. They have lost at least 89 games 13 times in the last 19 years and they maintain the worst winning percentage in baseball (.433) from 1993-2012. They are only 13 wins away this year from catching their total in 2010 (57-105).
Their current winning percentage of .605 happens to be exactly the same as the .605 they produced in 1979. Willie Stargell and the Pirates beat the Baltimore Orioles in seven games to win their last World Series.
The 2013 version of the Pirates features one of the most exciting players in all of baseball in Andrew McCutchen. The electric center fielder is hitting .289 with eight home runs, 38 RBIs and 15 stolen bases.
Their bullpen contains a dynamite one-two punch in Jason Grilli (1.82 ERA, 26 saves and 58 strikeouts) and Mark Melancon (0.96 ERA, 40 strikeouts). Their deep rotation boasts the third-best ERA in the game (3.37).
A.J. Burnett (4-6, 3.12), Jeff Locke (6-1, 2.01), Wandy Rodriguez (6-4, 3.59), Francisco Liriano (6-3, 2.30), Jeanmar Gomez (2-0, 3.07) and Gerrit Cole (3-0, 3.44) have all been effective starters.
The Mariners split two games in Pittsburgh earlier this season and will look to solve Jeff Locke tonight.
Where were you in 1992?