By Nate Barnes
Dale Sveum knows what success looks like and feels like.
After all, the Cubs’ current manager was with the Boston Red Sox as a third base coach when they won a World Series in 2004, their first in 86 years.
Sveum also knows the other side of the coin, which he got a firsthand glimpse at in his time as a Pittsburgh Pirate from 1996-97, and once again in his final year as a big-leaguer in 1999. Those years spent in Pittsburgh were among the formative ones that led to the Pirates’ recently-broken 20-year losing streak.
Now in his second year as the Cubs’ manager, the change at PNC Park is palpable for the former Pirate.
“The atmosphere is going to be huge here because they’ve been waiting here for quite a while for a winning team now,” Sveum said. “They obviously are going to be in the playoffs.”
Sveum and his Cubs began the season in Pittsburgh, and played their final game in the Steel City Sunday. Since that opening series back in April, Sveum has seen consistent pitching.
Sunday, Francisco Liriano carried a no-hitter into the sixth inning, and the bullpen pitched three hitless frames to lock down a 3-2 Pirates victory.
“They’ve done everything all year long on pitching, they keep holding guys to one or two runs a game,” Sveum said. “You’re going to have a chance to win ballgames and get deep into the playoffs.”
As a result, the Pirates sold out PNC Park for the 20th time in 2013, setting a new franchise record for sellouts in a reason.
“They’ve been waiting 20 years. Now they got it, and now they’ve got a playoff team,” Sveum said. “And (in) the new stadium, they’ve never got the experience. It’s a fun place to be right now.”
And on the field, second baseman Darwin Barney has noticed as well. Barney began playing against the Pirates in the waning days of their 57-105 2010 season, and has been in close proximity as a division opponent as the Pirates have attained more and more success with each year that has passed since his call-up.
“I think they’ve had a similar team the last three years, obviously some of their moves last year didn’t work out as well as they thought they would, but I think this year their pitching really held up,” Barney said. "I think that was one of the best things about this team, they always had the offense, plus-defense. It’s tough to come and play here; it’s tough to win here.”
Beyond the influx of talent -- including the recent additions of Marlon Byrd and Justin Morneau -- Barney also sees a team with a common mindset. It’s a mindset akin to a franchise that owns the most World Series titles among National League teams.
“There’s a cohesiveness to the Pirates that you kind of see in St. Louis, something that makes St. Louis go,” Barney said. “Their pitching has been so dominant they didn’t fall out of the race this year. I think they’re going to finish very strong.”