In a year filled with numerous achievements and milestones, what’s one more? After a 2-1 victory over the Cubs last night, thanks to a Starling Marte solo-homer in the 9th inning and a Washington Nationals’ loss to the St. Louis Cardinals, the Pittsburgh Pirates clinched a playoff berth for the first time since 1992. Boy it felt good to type that.
Following another superb start from Charlie Morton (ND, 7 IP, 3 H, 1 BB, 5 K), set-up man Mark Melancon was handed another lead late in the game last night. Having given up five runs in his last 1.2 IP, Melancon hoped to return to his 1st half form last night. That wasn’t the case as the 8th inning started with a hit, a runner advancing to 2nd on a groundout and 3rd on a wild pitch, and an RBI-single which tied the game at 1 a piece. After miraculously getting the final two outs, the Pirates came to bat in the 9th, which started with strikeouts by Clint Barmes and pinch-hitter Travis Snider. After two quick outs, Starling Marte came to bat against the Cubs’ Kevin Gregg and promptly launched a ball into the left field seats giving the Pirates a 2-1 lead.
Tony Watson took care of Anthony Rizzo to start the home half of the 9th before handing the ball over the closer Jason Grilli. Grilli walked the first man he faced before getting Nate Schierholtz to hit into a fielder’s choice, which left Schierholtz at 1st with two out and Donnie Murphy up. The next play was something that, again, you only see in movies. Murphy singled to right center, Marlon Byrd bobbled the ball, McCutchen picked it up and fired to the infield, and Justin Morneau tracked down the offline throw before rifling the ball to catcher Russell Martin to complete the relay and catch Schierholtz trying to score for the final out. Game over.
How fitting that the Pirates’ 90th win ended with a play at the plate, just like the Jerry Meals game in 2011 and Game 7 of the 1992 NLCS? It’s honestly unreal how magical this 2013 season has been.
Shortly after the final out of the game in Chicago, the final out of the game between the Cardinals and Nationals was recorded. The person who hit into the final out you ask? Adam LaRoche. Can’t make this stuff up. Once the last out was made, the visiting clubhouse of Wrigley Field turned into a war zone, with champagne corks flying and the booze itself being sprayed throughout the room over the Pirates players, coaches, and other organization members. Root Sports covered it all with interviews of McCutchen, Walker, Pedro, Hurdle, Jeff Bannister, Jay Bell, Neal Huntington and many more. It may have been the most surreal event I have ever seen on TV. That’s the only way I can describe it.
A side note from this morning that may have been lost in all the celebrating was some Steelers Yinzer with a Twitter account who tried to make a case for why the Pirates celebrating was sending the wrong message and something about Chuck Noll. Seems like someone is a little upset his team is 0-3 and was doing his best to be the newest Internet Troll of the Day.
But the train doesn’t stop there. The Pirates have five games left and look to chase down the NL Central leading Cardinals with one of those games being played tonight at 8:05 PM with Gerrit Cole going against Chris Rusin. Every game is critical from here on out if the Pirates plan to make a run at the division title.