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Pirates Clinch NL East, Look Forward to Playoffs

September 28, 1992|From Associated Press

Now that they've three-peated in the National League East, the Pittsburgh Pirates don't want to repeat one feat--another October flop in the National League playoffs.

The Pirates became the first team since Philadelphia in 1976-78 to win three straight NL East titles, defeating the New York Mets, 4-2, Sunday behind Danny Jackson. It's their league-record ninth championship since divisional play began in 1969.

Only two National League teams--the Phillies and Pirates--have won three straight division titles, and Pittsburgh has done it twice--1970-72 and 1990-92.

The Pirates celebrated briefly in their clubhouse, but most of the talk was about what they haven't done--win a pennant--than what they have done in divisional play.

"We celebrated the division in 1990 and 1991," Andy Van Slyke said. "This team wants to move on more now than we ever have. The last couple of years we were unlucky, maybe this year we'll be the lucky club."

Manager Jim Leyland said this title meant more than the last two because the Pirates were written off after losing Bobby Bonilla to free agency, trading John Smiley and cutting Bill Landrum.

"This one is No. 1 to me," Leyland said. "We lost Bonilla and Smiley, people were laughing at us. . . This is awful special to me."

To get them to the post-season, the Pirates turned to Jackson, one of only two players on their roster who's played for a World Series champion.

Jackson pitched a six-hitter for seven-plus innings and Jay Bell drove in two runs as the Pirates swept the three-game series to improve to 13-2 against the Mets. The Pirates certainly didn't back into their title. They're 19-7 so far this month.

"I'd like to thank the Chicago Cubs for trading me here and giving me the chance for my third ring," said Jackson, who played for the 1985 champion Kansas City Royals and 1990 champion Cincinnati Reds.

Minutes before Pittsburgh's victory, second-place Montreal stayed mathematically alive with a 1-0 win over Chicago. But then the Pirates clinched it in their final home game of the season.

They're the only team in baseball to win 90 or more games in each season of the 90s, but the Pirates haven't been to the World Series since 1979. With Bonds and Doug Drabek possibly leaving via free agency, this may be their last chance to make it for awhile.

The NL playoffs begin Oct. 6 at the home of the West winner, most likely Atlanta. The Braves defeated Pittsburgh in a seven-game series last October.

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