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Pirates clinch playoff spot in 3-2 victory over Braves

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Can this season just end please?

Kevin C. Cox

For the second time this season a team clinched a playoff berth at Turner Field. Was it the Atlanta Braves? Nope, the Pittsburgh Pirates joined the Washington Nationals as teams to enjoy a champagne celebration in the locker room of Turner Field. The Braves did something unique this time as they took a 2-0 lead, before blowing the game and losing 3-2. This season just needs to end.

Alex Wood had some trouble to start the game allowing two Pirates to reach in the first but he came through with back to back strikeouts to escape unscathed. The Braves then came through with some early run support for Wood albeit of the meager variety. Emilio Bonifacio led off the first with a single and Phil Gosselin took Bonifacio's place at first after a failed bunt attempt caused Bonifacio to be thrown out at second. Freddie Freeman put the Braves in front early when he delivered a double to score Bonifacio. Since these are the 2014 Braves, Freeman was thrown out at third base trying to stretch his double into a triple. The bad luck was compounded by Justin Upton coming through with a single that would have scored Freeman from second. Upton was then thrown out trying to steal second to cap an inning that gave Atlanta an early 1-0 lead but which still managed to be highly frustrating.

The bottom of the second managed to be even more infuriating for Atlanta despite them once again scoring. Jason Heyward started things with a walk in his first at bat after missing several games with a thumb injury. Christian Bethancourt smacked a single to center and Chris Johnson loaded the bases with an infield single of his own. The bases were loaded with no outs and double play machine Andrelton Simmons at the plate. Simmons promptly grounded into a double played that scored Heyward but Alex Wood struck out to end the inning. The Braves loaded the bases with no outs but only scored one run. The game was now 2-0 but the Braves had squandered chances for big innings and would not score again. In fact the Braves would send the minimum number of batters to the plate for the final seven innings as the Braves pitching was just poor enough to blow the meager lead the offense gave them.

The Pirates began chipping away at the lead in the top of the fourth. Andrew McCutchen led off the inning with a single and went to third on a Starling Marte single with one out. Wood struck out Neil Walker and had a chance to escape the inning without any damage but his defense let him down. Marte took off for second and on a great pitch to throw on Bethancourt should have had Marte easily. The throw beat Marte by a huge distance but was wildly off target causing Gosselin to have to dive to catch it. As a result Marte reached second and McCutchen came home to score. Wood struck out Gaby Sanchez to end the inning but it was now 2-1.

The lead would not last another Pirates batter as Travis Snider led off the fifth with a solo homer that barely cleared the right field wall to tie the game at 2-2. Wood breezed through the rest of the inning but his lead was gone and no more runs were coming for Atlanta. In the sixth inning Andrew McCutchen and Starling Marte would both double to put the Pirates up 3-2 which was all Pittsburgh would need to clinch their playoff berth.

The rest of the game was mostly uneventful. The Braves pitching kept Pittsburgh in check the rest of the night but the Pirates had the lead and Atlanta's offense would never threaten it. The Braves put runners on first in both the 8th and 9th but both runners were immediately erased by subsequent double plays. Freeman's double play in the 9th ended the game and gave the wild card berth to the Pirates. Atlanta must win out to finish at ,500 but at this point it might be a miracle if Atlanta wins another game.