The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

Sports

September 24, 2013

Pirates clinch 1st playoff berth in 21 years

(Continued)

Pittsburgh players sang Journey's "Don't Stop Believing." They chanted "MVP! MVP!" while dousing McCutchen. They 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.

The Pirates snapped a 1-all tie when Marte sent a drive off Kevin Gregg (2-6) with two outs in the ninth into the left field bleachers.

In a fitting coincidence, they then preserved the victory on the final out in a play at the plate.

McCutchen, the center fielder, picked up Ryan Sweeney's bloop single after right fielder Marlon Byrd failed in trying to scoop up the ball and threw to first baseman Justin Morneau, positioned just in front of the pitcher's mound. Morneau caught the throw on one hop and made the relay to catcher Russell Martin, who applied the tag on Nate Schierholtz trying to score from first base.

Still on his knees, Martin held the ball over his head in jubilation. Then, he was embraced by closer Jason Grilli before heaving the ball toward deep left field as the Pirates celebrated near the mound. Grilli escaped with his 32nd save in 34 chances.

"Twenty-one years since we popped Champagne in a Pirates clubhouse — and we're acting like it's been a long time," Hurdle said. "The hard work, the fun. I'm just proud of each and every man in here, the fans they represent, ownership, general manager, president ... the scouts, players. This has been a group effort for a long time."

The Pirates' last trip to the playoffs ended with Atlanta's Sid Bream sliding home with the winning run in the bottom of the ninth inning of Game 7 of the 1992 NL championship series.

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