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Pirates draw 2.5 games out of first place

DHP_6720Photo: David Hague

PIRATES – BREWERS REACTIONS

PITTSBURGH — Suddenly, the Pittsburgh Pirates have made things interesting in the National League Central again.

The Pirates drew within 2 ½ games of the first-place St. Louis Cardinals on Saturday night with a 10-2 rout of the Milwaukee Brewers at PNC Park. The Cardinals lost twice to the Reds at Cincinnati on Saturday afternoon, dropping the completion of a game suspended Friday night then the regularly scheduled game.

The Pirates also padded their lead in the NL wild card race — and for second place in the division — to five games over the Chicago Cubs, who lost to the Phillies at Philadelphia on Saturday night.

The Pirates haven’t been this close to first place since winning three games in a row from the Cardinals at PNC Park just before the All-Star break in July.

However, there was little celebrating after the game in the Pirates’ clubhouse and it wasn’t because everyone was scrambling to beat the fireworks night traffic.

The Pirates (85-56) insist they aren’t focusing on the standings, even after getting within two games of the Cardinals (88-54) in the loss column.

“We’re just going to keep playing,” manager Clint Hurdle said. “We’ve been excited since opening day. We’ve taken the mindset for years about not having a September gear, not having an August gear, about playing October baseball from opening day on. That’s the mood we’ve tried to create here.

“The season is going to play itself out and we’ve just got to keep working on getting better and trying to win some games.”

Utility man Josh Harrison echoed Hurdle’s sentiment in the clubhouse after going 4-for-4 with a walk in matching his career high for hits.

“It’s not anything that we look at it,” Harrison said. “We’ve still got some weeks to play. The best way to approach is it just to worry about the way you play. We just need to keep playing like we did the last two nights —- pitch well, play defense, hit, run the bases — that’s the type of team we are.”

The Pirates also beat the Brewers 6-3 on Friday night to snap a seven-game losing streak against them. The back-to-back wins over a team that had been their nemesis since the All-Star break was just another example of the Pirates’ mindset in Harrison’s eyes.

“The way we played tonight, it feels like we’ve been boat racing them all year,” Harrison said. “It’s just a testament to our team. We know tomorrow is a different game and we’ve got to get ready for it. You can’t worry about what happened in the past.”

Or the future.

The Pirates’ hope has been to be with at least within three games of St. Louis when the Cardinals come to PNC Park for a three-game series from Sept. 28-30 that begins the final week of the regular season. Now they have put themselves in that position.

“It’s nice that we’re playing well,” said left-hander Jeff Locke, who pitched the Pirates to their sixth win in the last nine games. “But that series is still a ways off. We’ve got a lot of baseball to play between now and then.”

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–Harrison started in left field after Starling Marte was scratched because of gastroenteritis then had the ninth four-game of his five-year career.

“I’m ready to play every day,” Harrison said. “If I’m not in the (original) lineup then I’m still always ready for certain cases like today.”

Marte did not start Friday night because of left shoulder discomfort, though he entered the game in the seventh inning as a defensive replacement, after being hit by a pitch Thursday night.

–Locke pitched into the seventh inning for just the second time in his last 10 starts to get the win. He allowed one run in 6 1/3 innings while striking out seven and walking two.

Locke had lost consecutive starts and four of his last five decisions. He lowered his home ERA to 3.46 in 88 1/3 innings, compared to 5.89 on the road in 68 innings.

“It was committing to 100 percent on each pitch,” Locke said of his success. “(Catcher Francisco Cervelli) and I talked before the game and we were on a good page about being aggressive early in the count and changing speeds to keep them off balance.”

–Michael Morse hit a pinch-hit grand slam in the seventh inning for his first home run in 48 plate appearances since being acquired July 31 from the Los Angeles Dodgers in a trade. It was the fifth slam of his 11-year career.

–Catcher Elias Diaz made his major league debut, flying out to deep center field in the eighth inning as a pinch hitter. Diaz was recalled from Triple-A Indianapolis on Sept. 1 when the major league roster limited expanded to 40 from 25.

About The Author

John Perrotto

Pirates Insider

John Perrotto is a contributor to Inside Pittsburgh Sports, covering the Pittsburgh Pirates, MLB. John has covered the Pirates for over 20+ seasons and is an exclusive member of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America.

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