Let the champagne flow. The Pittsburgh Pirates are going to play postseason baseball for the first time since I was five years old. And after 20 years of losing, you know that they weren’t going to make this win an easy one.
Neil Walker put the Pirates on the board in the first inning with an opposite field home run off of Jeff Samardzija. But that was the only run that Samardzija would surrender. Fortunately for the Pirates, Charlie Morton had another dominant performance. Seven innings, three hits, five strikeouts, and no runs. The worst thing that happened to the pitching was Morton getting pulled. Mark Melancon continued his recent struggles by giving up the tying run in the eighth on a single by Donnie Murphy. Kevin Gregg came on to pitch for the Cubs in the ninth and struck out the side. The issue for him is that in between the second and third strike out, he ran into Starling Marte. Marte was inserted into the lineup as a defensive replacement for Jose Tabata in the seventh inning. But defense isn’t where he made his impact. He launched a home run into the left field seats for what would end up being the game winning hit. And if that isn’t enough drama for you….keep reading to see how this one ended.
Player of the Game: Charlie Morton
Morton was somewhat unfortunate tonight coming away with a no decision after the way he pitched. But I’m sure he will live with it after the result. There is a very good argument that can be made that Morton has been the best pitcher on the roster over the past two months. And his journey epitomizes that of the Pirates. He’s had some awful years. He’s battled through multiple very serious injuries. He’s been turned on by a large portion of the fanbase. Only to turn around and battle back to become an excellent starter. Anyone who knows me is aware that I’ve been pulling for this guy for years. Really happy to see it all coming together for him.
Play of the Game: Justin Morneau
Morneau may not be lighting the world on fire with the bat but what he did in the ninth inning with his glove tonight may be the biggest reason why the entire city is celebrating right now. Jason Grilli came on with one out in the ninth after Tony Watson was called upon to get Anthony Rizzo. The first batter to face Grilli was Dioner Navarro who reached on a questionable walk. Logan Watkins would pinch run for him and the batter would be Nate Schierholtz. Schierholtz hit a soft line drive to the gap in right center field that Marlon Byrd misplayed. The bobble by Byrd caused Watkins to be waived home. McCutchen picked up the ball and fired towards home plate. The ball bounced over the mound and into the glove of Morneau who calmly threw it home in time for Russell Martin to make the tag for the final out.
Up Next: Chicago Cubs, Tuesday, 8:05pm
Tonight was the night that many of us have been waiting for for a very long time. If you’re a bandwagon fan, welcome aboard and join the ride. But for those of you like me that have been watching this team lose for two decades, we all share in a common bond. The wonders of social media have given us the ability to share in it. Tonight was an unreal night for baseball, the Pittsburgh Pirates organization, the players, and the fans. But it’s not over yet. Get back to work tomorrow.
If there is one pitcher that has rivaled Morton in dominance lately, it has been Gerrit Cole. This month he has turned into the pitcher that we all expect him to be for many years to come. He hasn’t allowed more than two runs in any start this month and his strikeout numbers are skyrocketing. He had 12 in his last outing against the Padres.
Lefty Chris Rusin will pitch for the Cubs making just his 13th start of the year. He faced the Pirates a couple weeks ago and pitched rather well in what was a loss for the Cubs.