' not-so-magic number is zero, or the number of winning teams they've had during a record-setting run of futility over 17
assured the Pirates of an unwanted place in baseball's record book, getting two homers from
and an effective start from
while beating the last-place Pirates 4-2 on Monday.
By losing their 10th in 11 games, the Pirates are guaranteed of finishing below .500, just as they have every season since
1993. The 17 consecutive losing seasons represent the longest streak for any team in the four major North American pro team
sports, and only the Phillies (1933-48) have also had as many as 16 in a row.
The Vancouver Canucks (NHL, 1976-91) and Kansas City/Sacramento Kings (NBA, 1983-98) had 15 consecutive losing seasons each
and the NFL's Tampa Bay Buccaneers had a 14-year streak (1983-96).
''We can't ignore it and say it didn't happen,'' said manager
, whose team was dismantled by the trading of five everyday players since opening day. ''We're not accepting it. We're making
moves to make sure we build a championship team, and we want that to happen as soon as possible.''
The present-day Pirates (54-82) are a mix of prospects and lower-paid players, and most were oblivious to the significance
of the loss. Rookie starting pitcher
(0-1) didn't realize his first career loss would be the Pirates' 1,501st since the streak began, the season after former Pirates
left to sign with the Giants.
In the opposing dugout, the Cubs'
remembered managing in Cincinnati against Bonds-led Pirates teams that averaged 96 wins from 1990-92.
''There isn't any team that wants to lose,'' said Piniella, whose own team hasn't won the World Series since 1908. ''Some
are a little more fortunate, some have more money to spend, some of them draft better players. But I'm sure this organization
in the near future will start winning with more regularity. It would be great for the National League and the fans here, they've
had a lot of history here and success in the past to draw on.''
No recent success, for sure. The Pirates have been in a rebuilding mode under three owners, four general managers and six
managers since the streak began, but no team finished better than four games under .500.
Fittingly, the song ''Money for Nothing'' was played during one inning break, which befits a team that has spent about a half
billion dollars on salaries since 1993 yet has fielded only one team that went into September with an opportunity to win a
Given that the Pirates' top talent is mostly in the minor leagues, it's conceivable the streak won't end in the next year
''Setting a major league mark for losing hurts and it hits particularly hard for us because everyone in this organization
is extraordinarily proud to be a part of a franchise that has such a long and rich history of winning,'' team president Frank
A franchise that won five World Series from 1909-79 and sent 13 players to the Hall of Fame did not publicly mention the dubious
record, and there were few eyewitnesses - 14,673 - on a drizzly Labor Day. The loss was the Pirates' 24th in their last 30
games against the Cubs, one of the majors' most disappointing teams this season.
Except against the Pirates, who are 2-7 against the Cubs.
Lee hit his 30th homer into the center field shrubbery with two out in the first, then hit his 31st into the front row of
the left-field bleachers two innings later after
's two-out single. It was Lee's second multiple-homer game in three days and the 22nd of his career.
''It's been a good few days,'' Lee said. ''I definitely have been feeling good at the plate. It seems when I get a pitch,
it's been going out of the ballpark.''
McCutchen (0-1) has allowed three homers since being promoted to the majors on Aug. 31, each on a first pitch.
Lilly (11-8) needed 86 pitches over six innings to win for the first time in his last six road starts, with the left-hander
combining on a two-hitter. Lilly gave up both hits, struck out seven and walked one.
Marmol pitched the ninth for his 10th save in 14 opportunities.
hit his eighth homer in the third and
doubled in a run in the fifth, but they couldn't prevent the Pirates from being mathematically eliminated in the NL Central
NOTES: Chicago recalled right-hander
from Triple-A Iowa for the fourth time this season. He has a 7.36 ERA in six games. ... Chicago won for only the fourth time
in its last 13 road games. ... The Orioles are one loss away from a 12th consecutive losing season.