PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – It’s been a long time since Pirates fans have been able to read and believe the following few words – the Pittsburgh Pirates are heading to the playoffs.
Entering play Monday night, the Pirates’ magic number to clinch their first playoff berth since 1992 stood at two.
It didn’t come easy either.
Mark Melancon came in to pitch in the eighth inning with the Bucs clinging to a 1-0 lead and it didn’t go as planned.
Brian Bogusevic singled to lead off the inning and advanced to second one batter later on a groundout. With one out, Bogusevic scored on a Donnie Murphy single, which tied the game.
Melancon settled in and retired the next two batters to get out of the inning. That set the stage for some ninth inning heroics, which ended the game in a rather fitting way.
With nobody on and two out in the top of the ninth, Starling Marte crushed a Kevin Gregg offering into the left field bleachers to put the Pirates back on top 2-1.
Tony Watson came in to start the bottom of the ninth and got Anthony Rizzo to groundout for the first out of the inning.
Jason Grilli came in and walked Dioner Navarro, who was then replaced with pinch runner Logan Watkins, who was forced out at second on a ground ball by Nate Schierholtz.
The Pirates now stood one out away from reducing their magic number to just one – and that’s when the game got very interesting.
Ryan Sweeney was the Cubs’ last chance and he delivered a single to center field. Marlon Byrd charged the ball, but it deflected off of his glove and Schierholtz was given the green light to head home.
Andrew McCutchen gathered the ball and fired it into the infield to Justin Morneau. Morneau’s relay throw to the plate was on point and in time and Russell Martin held his ground to apply the tag to give the Pirates their 90th win of the season.
The play was reminiscent of the infamous “Sid Bream Play,” except the Pirates came out on the right side of the equation this time.
Minutes later and with the Pirates gathered around the clubhouse television, they watched as the St. Louis Cardinals put the finishing touches on a 4-3 win over the Nationals, which assured Pittsburgh of its first playoff berth since 1992.
“I’m happy that I’m a part of it. I’m happy that I’m just able to have this opportunity. It’s been a long time coming. I wish it’s something we could have done in Pittsburgh, but it’s great that we’re able to do it,” McCutchen said.
“I don’t think you could ask for anything more. I mean, what an opportunity. It’s not done yet, but it’s sure definitely time to savor it. Wow, it’s just so much fun,” Gerrit Cole said.
Cole is right, the Pirates aren’t done yet.
The Cincinnati Reds also clinched a playoff berth last night and both teams trail the Cardinals by two games in the race for the NL Central crown.
There are five games left in the season for the Pirates – two more against the Cubs and three against the Reds.
If this team has shown us anything this season, it’s that anything is possible.