Pirates clinch first playoff berth in 21 years
CHICAGO — The Pittsburgh Pirates are headed to the playoffs for the first time in 21 years, clinching at least a National League wild card Monday night when they beat the Chicago Cubs 2-1 and the Washington Nationals lost to St. Louis.
It will be Pittsburgh’s first trip to the postseason since Barry Bonds, Jim Leyland and Co. won three straight NL East titles from 1990-92. Bonds then left for San Francisco as a free agent, and the small-budget Pirates piled up 20 consecutive losing records — the longest streak in the four major professional sports.
“Even though I didn’t lose for the last 20 years, they make you feel like you are. You feel like you lost those 20 years,” Andrew McCutchen said. “That’s all you hear. You hear it every single day — ‘When’s it going to change? You think this is the year?’ You get sick and tired of hearing that. It’s awesome that there won’t be any questions anymore. The question is are we going to be able to go farther.”
Starling Marte hit a tiebreaking homer in the ninth inning at Wrigley Field, and the Pirates threw out a runner at the plate for the final out.
The Pirates sprayed each other with champagne and beer and sparkling cider in the visitors’ clubhouse once St. Louis’ 4-3 win over the Nationals became final.
The Cincinnati Reds also clinched at least a wild-card berth, when they beat the New York Mets 3-2 in 10 innings. The Pirates and Reds, both 90-67, trail St. Louis by two games in the NL Central with five to go.
Pirates players took pictures and manager Clint Hurdle had them gather for a group photo in the middle of the cramped visitors’ clubhouse.
“The people of Pittsburgh have been waiting a long time,” said Neil Walker, who homered.
• Baltimore All-Star third baseman Manny Machado went down with a potentially serious leg injury, Alexi Casilla left with a head injury and the Orioles were pushed to the brink of being eliminated from the AL wild-race Monday with a 5-4 loss to Tampa Bay. Manager Buck Showalter tried to stay positive all weekend but found it difficult after this loss.
“I don’t want to say depressing; it probably is,” Showalter said. “But more what’s going on right now (in the locker room) is teammate to teammate, with two guys going down in the lineup.”
Both injuries occurred during the seventh inning. Machado’s left leg buckled when he stepped on first base running out an infield single. He was taken off on a stretcher.
• CC Sabathia will not pitch again for the New York Yankees this season because of a strained left hamstring.
• The Minnesota Twins shut down All-Star catcher Joe Mauer (concussion) for the rest of the season.
• Pedro Martinez will serve as a studio analyst for TBS during the playoffs. The network said that the three-time Cy Young Award winner will join host Keith Olbermann.