MILWAUKEE — Travis Snider emphatically clapped his hands a single time as he rounded first base in the ninth inning Tuesday.
His soaring home run off Brewers reliever Jim Henderson landed well up in the second level at Miller Park. The blast gave the Pirates a 4-3 victory and with it the Pirates’ 81st win of the season.
Snider’s pinch-hit homer secured the Pirates’ first non-losing season in 21 years. His clap symbolically slammed the door on the longest streak of consecutive losing seasons in North American pro sports, provided the Pirates don’t lose 24 consecutive games and then qualify, and lose in, a one-game playoff.
“I was fired up,” Snider said. “We all know what is at stake.”
Yes, 82 wins is the more meaningful benchmark. That win total guarantees a winning season. But 81 meant something.
“It was on our to-do list,” Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. “I’m happy for the Clemente family. … They told me we can’t have 21 losing seasons. We’ve got to find a way not to have Roberto’s number tied to that.”
The Pirates have bigger goals in mind. They hold a two-game NL Central lead over the St. Louis Cardinals, who lost again to the Reds on Tuesday.
Andrew McCutchen has been part of more of the losing than most of his teammates. In his first postseason chase, he has played like an MVP. He hit his 100th career home run and scored three runs Tuesday.
“It feels like a dream,” McCutchen said.
But most of the Pirates, including starting pitcher Gerrit Cole, have had little to do with the streak.
A day after Cole’s second birthday — Sept. 9, 1992 — was the last time the Pirates reached 81 wins.
The 22-year-old Cole helped the Pirates get to 81 wins Tuesday, allowing two runs in six innings and matching Brewers starter Yovani Gallardo.
Cole again struggled early. He walked Norichika Aoki leading off the bottom of the inning. Jean Segura followed with a double, and Jonathan Lucroy followed with a two-run single to give the Brewers a 2-1 lead.
But Cole settled.
The Pirates want to see more innings like the third, when Cole struck out Segura swinging on a slider that dropped out of the zone and fanned Aramis Ramirez on another offspeed pitch. In the sixth, Cole struck out Ramirez and Carlos Gomez with 98 mph fastballs.
Cole has been with the Pirates for three months; Marlon Byrd and Justin Morneau arrived last week. Both recent trade acquisitions were contributors Tuesday. Morneau went 3 for 3 and drove in McCutchen to tie the score, 2-2, in the third.
Byrd drove in McCutchen in the eighth with a double to give the Pirates a 3-2 lead before Vin Mazzaro allowed an RBI single in the eighth to tie the score.
“That’s why we went and got these guys,” Hurdle said, “They are impact bats.”