Postseason return restores Pirates pride and passion

Thu Oct 10, 2013 3:32pm EDT
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(Reuters) - The Pittsburgh Pirates are no longer the "laughing stock of baseball" and can hold their heads high after their first postseason appearance in two decades ended in defeat to St. Louis in Wednesday's National League Division Series clincher.

The Pirates ended a painful run of 20 successive losing seasons by posting a 94-68 record in 2013, claiming a wild card berth for their first postseason in 21 years.

They beat the Cincinnati Reds in a one-off wild card playoff to qualify for the NLDS against St. Louis.

The curtain came down on their exhilarating, 'Cinderella run' with a 6-1 defeat in St. Louis that gave the Cardinals a 3-2 triumph in the best-of-five NLDS.

"It's not the way we wanted it to end. I guess everyone can't have a happy ending," said Pittsburgh outfielder Andrew McCutchen, a leading contender for National League MVP honors.

"It's one of those stepping stones for you. You have to take it in a positive manner.

"We're not the laughing stock of baseball anymore. When we show up, they know they're going to have competition ahead of them. We're not that weak team anymore."

Pittsburgh's rookie starter Gerrit Cole, who dazzled the Cardinals with his sizzling fastball and sharp breaking ball in a dominant Game Two victory, powered through the Cardinals order with just one costly hiccup - a hanging breaking pitch that David Freese crushed for a two-run homer in the second inning.

"I didn't make many mistakes all day," said the 23-year-old Cole. "I made one. But that's postseason baseball. It takes one pitch that can either make or break your season. That's kind of the way it goes."   Continued...

Oct 9, 2013; St. Louis, MO, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates first baseman Justin Morneau (66) celebrates scoring against the St. Louis Cardinals during the seventh inning in game five of the National League divisional series playoff baseball game at Busch Stadium. Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports