Aramis Ramirez slid safely into third base for his first triple since Aug. 2, 2014 and his Pittsburgh Pirates teammates were grinning ear-to-ear.
Why were they smiling? For one Ramirez is not known for his speed, and secondly, the Pirates scored all of their runs on two-out hitting, with this fourth inning triple being one of those runs.
The Pirates used this to defeat the Colorado Rockies by a 6-3 score Tuesday night reducing their magic number to one game. If the Pirates win Wednesday or the San Francisco Giants lose, then they will clinch a playoff spot for the third consecutive season.
When J.A. Happ was removed from the game with one out in the sixth inning, the bullpen was tasked with preserving the 6-3 lead.
Jared Hughes was called upon first and the ground ball pitcher did just that, getting D.J LeMahieu to ground into an inning ending double play. This was his 139th ground ball out this season, which is the second-highest mark in his career behind his 2012 mark of 144.
Antonio Bastardo was given the ball in the seventh inning and retired the side in order. In his last 3.2 innings of work, Bastardo has not surrendered a hit, a streak which dates back to Sept. 13. Additionally he has scored on three times in his past 23 games which totals 21.1 innings, an ERA of 1.28. He also has a road ERA of 2.75 this season.
With Tony Watson unavailable for the game, Joakim Soria playoff the setup role in the eighth inning. After allowing a leadoff single to Charlie Blackmon, he struck out each of the next three batters he faced. This was his eighth consecutive scoreless appearance.
Mark Melancon earned his 49th save of the season after retiring the side in order to extend his Major-League lead among all pitchers. The outing was also his eighth consecutive scoreless appearance.
Happ [6-2] himself set the tone allowing three runs, on seven hits in 5.1 innings. Though the 82 pitches he threw were his lowest total since joining the Pirates, he reached a three-ball count on Rockies hitters just twice over the course of the 23 that saw the place when Happ was on the mound.
Manager Clint Hurdle told the media of Happ’s outing that it was a professional outing and that he did not let the game get away from him.
The Pirates struck first in the first inning when Starling Marte picked up his offense from the past two games and hit a double, his 29th of the season, which allowed for Gregory Polanco to score. An additional two runs were scored in the second inning when Josh Harrison also hit a double, his 24th of the season, to plate Jordy Mercer. Polanco also added a single to make the score 3-0 Pirates.
Wilin Rosario hit his sixth home run for the Rockies in the bottom half of the inning, however Michael Morse’s broken bat, fourth inning single plated Francisco Cervelli and brought the Pirates lead back up to three runs.
Happ’s trouble spot came in a 19-pitch third inning. Blackmon singled to score Brandon Barnes who led off the inning with a single of his own. Nolan Arenado, who went 0-for-5 with four strikeouts in game one of this series, hit an RBI single a day later to bring the Rockies to within one run.
This was as close as the Rockies would get however, as the Pirates offense immediately responded. Ramirez’s triple came as Blackmon misread the ball in center field then could not find the ball. Marte then hit an RBI single to plate Ramirez. The ball hit the third base bag as the Rockies did not touch the ball in hopes of it going foul. In the game’s broadcast, Root Sports Tim Neverett jokingly referred to the play as a true base hit.
Following the victory, the players elected not to stay to see if the Giants would lose. A loss would have allowed them to clinch and have the traditional champagne celebration. The Giants defeated the San Diego Padres 4-2, so the move proved to be the correct one.
The Pirates will look to clinch themselves and leave nothing to chance Wednesday evening. Charlie Morton [9-8 4.26 ERA] will face Jorge De La Rosa [9-7 4.17 ERA]. Morton is 2-2 with a 3.74 ERA in seven career starts against the Rockies.
Of note: Ramirez left the game with tightness in his groin, he did this when rounding second base on his fourth inning triple. “Next time, we’ll tell him to stay at second,” Hurdle said to reporters following the game… Were the Pirates to make the playoffs, it would be the third time in franchise history that they have made the playoffs in three consecutive seasons. The other two times were 1970-1972 and 1990-1992.
Photo credit: David Zalubowski/AP Photo