The Bucs had another of their innings in the second. With an out, Russ Martin walked and Jordy Mercer's hot shot to third went off Luis Valbueno's mitt into left to put Bucs at first and third. Morton bunted, Martin took a peek and headed home, where he was DOD; looked like he went on his own on a bad read. The sad part is that if it was a straight squeeze, it probably would have worked. JT bounced out, and the Bucs left another couple of runners aboard.
The Cubs tried to conjure some two out juju. Ryan Sweeney walked on a 3-2 pitch that looked like strike three, and Brian Bogusevich, who owns Morton, dropped a soft chalk kisser in right, played well by Marlon Byrd to hold the lead runner at third. Darwin Barney worked the count to 3-1 and got a ball over the dish that he was all over, but his liner to left was hauled in by JT. Sam worked a quiet third, as did Charlie.
Pedro singled with an out in the fourth and moved to second on Martin's tapper. Mercer was intentionally walked with first open, and Morton went down on three pitches. In the Cub half, it was three up, three grounders, three down. With two away in the fifth, Cutch and Justin Morneau walked, but Byrd grounded the first pitch he saw to short; the Bucs have stranded seven over five frames. Charlie struck out the side, interrupted with two outs by bopping Barney with a 1-2 curve.
Martin singled with an out in the sixth; Morton blopped a broken bat single with two outs. By JT whiffed going after high heat, and the Buc pond is just filled with ducks looking to come home. Morton faced the top of the Chi-town order, and Morneau handled the action.He smothered Starlin Castro's one hopper, but it got under him for a knock. Valbuena got ahead 3-0, took a strike and hit a one bouncer up the line; Morneau stepped and first and threw to second for the tag DP. Rizzo bounced to first, and the big guy erased him unassisted.
Carlos Villanueva took the ball in the seventh and worked a routine frame. Dionner Navarro singled to left center to open. Charlie whiffed Nate Schierholtz, then got Sweeney to hit a slow roller to second. Navarro stopped to avoid the tag midway down the line, then The Kid went to first for the force and Morneau's throw to second completed the second tag 'em out DP of the game for the Bucs.
Hector Rendon worked a 1-2-3 eighth, with a couple of sharply hit grounders finding leather instead of grass. Charlie was done after seven scoreless, giving up three hits, a walk and collecting five whiffs after 89 pitches. Clint Barmes came on to play short and Mark the Shark climbed the hill.
And it continued. Bogusevich got a call on a two strike check swing and used the reprieve to single to center. A barney chop off the middle went off Melancon's mitt; he could just get the out at first. A wild pitch moved the runner to third, and a routine grounder by Donnie Murphy, with Pedro playing well in front of the bag, maybe losing his positioning even with the infield in, went under the third baseman's mitt to tie the game. A fly out and K - with a foul that just wrapped outside the RF pole by Valbuena - ended the frame.
Kevin Gregg worked the ninth, and struck out the side. He did have a two-out burp, though - he hung a curve to Starling Marte and the new papa pounded it halfway up the bleachers in left to give the Bucs the lead again at 2-1. Now it's on Tony Watson, with lefty Rizzo due up and Jason Grilli getting a late start on loosening in the pen. Rizzo hit a one hopper over third; Pedro was in a no-double D, made the play, and short hopped the throw to first, which was nicely picked by Morneau. Now it's Grilli time.
And what a finish. Navarro walked on a 3-2 pitch, again looking a lot like strike three. Schierholtz hit a broken bat roller toward first. Morneau, playing the line, fully extended his 6'4" frame, gloved the ball and got the force at second. With two strikes, Sweeney blooped a single to right with the OF playing deep, and Byrd had the ball glance off his glove. Cutch was there for the backup, and as Schierholtz made a mad dash home, Cutch's relay hit Morneau, who got the ball to Martin a step ahead of the runner, and Russ made the tag, raised the ball for the ump, and the Bucs had win #90.
Not much offense, but Charlie Morton was spectacular again, and two homers were just enough. Justin Morneau's defense at first was unbelievable tonight; his bat might have been quiet, but his glove had as much to do with the win as the homers. And if the mark the Shark doesn't find his mojo soon, he may find himself flipped with Tony Watson.
Oh - the win clinches a playoff spot. The wait is over; now the question is when and where. So there's still work to be done, and it goes on tomorrow night when Gerrit Cole takes on Chris Rusin.
- The Reds and Cards won by a run tonight, too, so the numbers are the same as yesterday - St. Louis up by two, with Cincinnati and Pittsburgh tied for second and the top wildcard spot.