MILWAUKEE -- Now the Pirates find themselves in a sort of limbo.
After their 4-3 win Tuesday night against the Milwaukee Brewers at Miller Park, they have 81 victories this season. It is unlikely the Pirates will lose all their 24 remaining games, but, if they do, they have ensured a finish of at least .500 for the first time since 1992.
"It's just a win, man," said Travis Snider, whose pinch-hit home run in the ninth inning put the Pirates ahead. "We got a lot more baseball to play. Getting caught up in that personal achievements is not what we're here for."
Most of the players don't care about that. More important for the current team, the win moved the Pirates two games ahead of the St. Louis Cardinals in the NL Central. The Cardinals lost to the Cincinnati Reds for the second night in a row, this time by 1-0.
"We're just playing to win a World Series," said Andrew McCutchen, who also homered. "That's what we're here for. That's what it's all about. We're one step closer every day."
Nothing changed in the clubhouse. Players ate spaghetti and meatballs in silence -- the music usually playing after wins was turned down so the media could interview Snider -- and watched highlights from around the league. Manager Clint Hurdle patiently answered questions about the losing streak, as he has all year.
"It's a step in the right direction," he said. "It was on our to-do list."
Snider homered off Jim Henderson to break a 3-3 tie. It was his fourth home run this season and first since June 15. He came off the disabled list Sunday after missing August due to pain in his left big toe.
"Going down to Triple-A, Double-A, getting the at-bats, playing on a regular basis, addressing some of the mechanical breakdowns that have been caused over the last couple months -- things weren't right," Snider said. "I felt like I had a good run down there and felt confident coming up here whatever role they were going to put me in to just go out there and compete."
McCutchen hit his 18th homer this season and 100th of his career, in the first. He clobbered Yovani Gallardo's 2-2 fastball to left-center.
"It's definitely a great milestone for myself to be able to do that," McCutchen said.
McCutchen noted that the Pirates don't play to break even, but allowed that the season has been enjoyable.
"It's one of those things, it feels like a dream almost because we've had a lot of years of losing and now that we're winning and we're continuing to get better, it's fun to be a part of," he said.
The new additions pitched in Tuesday.
Marlon Byrd went 2 for 3 with two RBIs and Justin Morneau went 3 for 3.
"It's nice being a part of this," Byrd said. "I'm just a piece of the puzzle, come in, drive in runs whenever I can and help the team win."
Byrd has been a Pirate for seven games, but already adopted the clubhouse's approach to dealing with the losing streak.
"We have one focus," he said, "and that's getting to the playoffs and winning the whole thing."
The game proceeded into the eighth tied at 2-2 before Byrd gave the Pirates the lead. McCutchen walked and took third on Morneau's single. Byrd doubled down the left-field line to score McCutchen.
The Brewers tied it in the bottom half of the eighth, though. Vin Mazzaro issued a leadoff walk to Caleb Gindl, who took second on Norichika Aoki's grounder. Jean Segura singled home Gindl to tie the score, 3-3.
Earlier this season, Hurdle talked to the Clemente family -- relatives of Roberto Clemente, the iconic Pirate who wore No. 21.
"They told me that we can't have 21 losing season," Hurdle said. "We've got to find a way to not have Roberto's number tied to that. I told them we would do anything we could to take care of that, and that's been taken care of."
Francisco Liriano takes the mound tonight when the Pirates try for their 82nd win, which all but guarantees their first winning season since 1992. There's basically no chance the Pirates and a few other teams suffer losing streaks that result in a one-game playoff and an 81-82 record. Barring that, they hover, not yet assured winners but no longer losers, either.
Bill Brink: firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @BrinkPG. First Published September 4, 2013 2:15 AM