The Reds tried to answer in the second. Todd Frazier and Jay Bruce had back-to-back singles, but Jay pumped in a whiff and Frazier was caught trying to steal third to allow Happ to escape. Jay celebrated with a knock of his own, but ended up the only Bucco runner. In the third, the Redlegs got a leadoff walk, but a pair of forceouts and a whiff ended their bats. Josh led off with a single, but only made it as far as second before the third out.
Jay issued a two out walk followed by a wild pitch in the fourth, but a swinging punchout calmed the waters. Pedro bombed a 1-2 heater Smith left up in the zone over the wall in right center, a blast that covered 479' and was caught by a passer-by on the River Walk. It was a 1-2-3 fifth for JA. Jumbo Diaz came on for Smith. After a pair of whiffs, The Kid singled, but was cut down stealing; it'd be nice for the Bucs to get a little more breathing room.
After a pair of K to start the sixth, Joey Votto battled and won, drawing a 13 pitch walk (and getting a call on ball four; it sure looked like strike three). It didn't look good when Brandon Phillips followed with a two strike single off a shoetop slider, but ended well when Phillips got happy feet and was gunned out at second by Starling, a call the Reds challenged and lost. Carlos Contreras took the ball. Fran doubled on a full count fastball with two gone and Jordy came through, banging a 1-2 hook at the knees into left for a two bagger and 3-0 lead.
|Jay answered the bell big time today (photo Dave Arrigo/Pirates)|
Tony Watson allowed a Jason Bourgeous single with one gone and a Votto knock with two outs. No sweat; Tony got Phillips on a comebacker. Ryan Mattheus got the call, and gave up a harmless knock to Fran. Save situation or not, The Shark jogged in for the ninth to an ovation from the crowd; two flies and a whiff later, the Bucs had home field advantage to a rockin' house, despite the Cubs winning again.
Ya know, we tend to focus on the division losses, errors, the bad baserunning & the back end of the rotation, but 98 wins marks a remarkable year. The guys played under pressure seemingly the entire season with St Louis and Chicago seeming to never lose (we'll bet they thought the same of the Pirates), and played all nine innings every night behind a strong rotation and lights out bullpen. If there's one bummer to the year, it's that Jung Ho Kang (he's not in the dugout because he can't put weight on his leg yet) will miss the post season.
Now it's Gerrit Cole and Jake Arrieta on another Black Out date Wednesday night. Here's hopin' there's a lot more dancin' left in that dugout.
- The last time the Pirates had the top two NL outfielders in assists was 1970 with Willie Stargell (16) & Matty Alou (15). Starling Marte (16) & Gregory Polanco (13) lead this year. The only other time it happened in Bucco history was in 1958 with Roberto Clemente (22) & Bob Skinner (19). (S/O to John Dreker of Pirates Prospects)
- If you were wondering, the Cards (100-62), Pirates (98-64) and Cubs (97-65) ended up with the three best records in baseball. The Pirates had three other 98 win teams in 1991, 1979 & 1909.
- Today’s attendance of 35,362 extended the single season record to 2,498,596, with 21 sellouts.
- The Pirates presented A-Ram and AJ with portraits before the game to mark their final season; Ramirez's featured him before and after as a Bucco, and Burnett's was him on PNC's mound with the City and Bat signal behind him.
- Congrats to Jeff Banister. Banny's Rangers won the AL West today.