Pirates nip Cubs, playoff berth clinched

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Updated: September 24, 2013

Chicago, IL (Sports Network) – Starling Marte homered in the top of the ninth
inning, and the Pittsburgh Pirates used timely defense in the bottom half to
claim a 2-1 victory over the Chicago Cubs in the first edition of a three-game
series from Wrigley Field.

Marte’s blast reached the bleachers in left with two down, and the Bucs
survived an interesting home portion to pick up the win.

Anthony Rizzo grounded out against Tony Watson to begin the bottom of the
ninth, then Jason Grilli came on but walked Dioner Navarro, though pinch
runner Logan Watkins was erased on a fielder’s choice grounder from Nate
Schierholtz. Ryan Sweeney then rolled a hit through the right side,
and when Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen couldn’t pick up the
ball, Schierholtz — who was in line to reach third easily — decided to try
and score.

The relay throw was cut off at the mound by first baseman Justin Morneau, who
threw to Russell Martin in time for the game-ending tag at the plate.

The Pirates gathered on the infield in celebration, knowing a playoff berth
was near. It was clinched minutes later, when the Cardinals topped Washington,
4-3.

Pittsburgh will experience its first meaningful October baseball since the
last of three straight NL East titles in 1992.

“The fans in Pittsburgh have been waiting a long time for the baseball team to
come back and play winning baseball,” said Pirates second baseman Neil Walker.
“I’ve been a part of this organization since 2004, I’ve seen a lot of players,
seen a lot of up, seen a lot of downs, but we knew we had a special group
here.”

Mark Melancon (3-2) gave up the tying run on a Donnie Murphy base hit in the
eighth, but was credited with the win. Grilli earned his 32nd save.

Kevin Gregg (2-6) struck out three for Chicago in the final frame, but
served up the deciding homer in defeat.

Cubs hurler Jeff Samardzija’s only mistake was leaving a pitch over the plate
to Walker in the first inning that resulted in a solo home run. The
former Notre Dame football player ended up allowing just four more hits, while
fanning seven and walking four over six innings.

“I was happy with how the day went,” said Samardzija. “Even with the walks, we
talk about it everytime it seems like every start, but those walks today were
with first base open or with the pitcher coming up.”

Bucs starter Charlie Morton tossed seven scoreless frames of three-hit ball
with five strikeouts and one walk.

Chicago finally responded in the home eighth. Brian Bogusevic hit a leadoff
single, moved up on a groundout, then went to third on a wild pitch before
scoring when pinch-hitter Murphy singled through the left side against a
drawn-in infield.

Game Notes

With the Pirates’ postseason entrance, only the Kansas City Royals (1985) and
Toronto Blue Jays (1993) remain as the lone franchises not to make the
playoffs since the dawn of the wild card era in 1995 … Pittsburgh has taken
11 of 17 meetings with the Cubs this season, including four of seven on the
North Side of Chicago.