Notes and quotes from postgame:
Regular season comes to an end
After Ardolis Chapman struck out Tony Sanchez to put a close to the Pirates regular season, Clint Hurdle stood at the end of the dugout and shook each player's hand and said "liked the fight" as they filed past.
"We were all in this together, we were one-minded ready to go and at the end of the day sometimes you don't get the results you want, but you got to love the fight," Hurdle explained afterwards. "I can remember going back to sixth grade and Mrs. Duncan dropped Teddy Roosevelt's ‘Man in the Arena' on me and I read it. So, if you want to appreciate what we're doing or what my feelings were [read that book]."
Cole powers through Reds
Gerrit Cole did what big-game pitchers do in big games - he dominated. After allowing a run in the first inning, Cole shut down the Reds for the next six, recording 12 strikeouts and allowing only four hits and no walks. Given the circumstances, it was one of the best performances from a Pirates pitcher this season.
"Wasn't he good?" Hurdle asked rhetorically. "He continues just to grow up and pitch ... The curveball played, the slider froze some hitters, he used the fastball to both sides, he had a changeup that worked, didn't walk a guy - so Ray's [Searage] is jumping up and down - and 12 punch outs. Big day for him."
If rising to the occasion in big games is a real and repeatable skill set that some pitchers possess, early indications are that Cole has it. For his career in September and postseason, his pitching line now reads: 82.1 innings pitched, 65 hits, 18 walks, 94 strikeouts and 2.73 ERA. (For those interested, Bill James ran an interesting series of articles on big-game pitchers.)
Cole was at a 102 pitches when he was pinch hit for leading off the eighth. Hurdle admitted it was a difficult decision to remove him from the game.
"It's a difficult situation because he [had] pitched so well," Hurdle said. "I think that the thing you have to keep in your front pocked is that he was on the disabled list twice this year [and] we still have a season in front of us ... You know that if you don't get a run in the eighth there is good chance you're getting Chapman in the ninth, so you try to find a way to strike in the eighth."
Cole said that he wanted to stay in the game, but understood the decision.
"[With me] leading off right there, I guess we probably rather take our chances with someone who professionally swings a bat and try to get something going," he said.
Pirates catching situation
On the swing that produced the game-winning single, Johnny Cueto hit Chris Stewart's left wrist with his bat during his follow-through. Stewart immediately fell over and laid sprawled out at the plate for a few moments. With Russell Martin's status still up in the air, the Pirates catching situation suddenly went from concerning to possibly downright frightening in a span of a few seconds.
However, Hurdle said that Stewart's X-rays came back negative and that he'll probably be "just a little sore for a day or two." He added that he wasn't concerned about ending up short in terms of the number catchers on the roster.
"You can adjust your roster for the Wild Card," Hurdle said. "A couple of the starters you can slide out. I think last year we carried three [catchers] for the Wild Card and you can make roster adjustments to protect yourself."
McCutchen hit again
Andrew McCutchen was hit by another pitch this afternoon. With two outs and first base open following a double by Travis Snider, Cueto threw up-and-in and hit McCutchen on the upper back.
"You know it's another one of those funny situations," Hurdle said. "He doesn't come close to anyone all day, he has a base open and he gets squared up right in the back ... sometimes things just don't look right."
Hurdle added that McCutchen is unlikely to forget the incident next season. "There is a memory bank in every man and you just file things away," he said.
McCutchen was not readily available for comment following the game.
Volquez ready to go in Wild Card game
Although the Pirates have not officially announced a starter for Wednesday's Wild Card game, informed speculation is that Edinson Volquez will get the nod. If he does pitch, it will be the second time in his career that Volquez has started a postseason game. In 2010, he started the first game of the National League Division Series for the Reds against the Phillies. He allowed four earned runs in 1.2 innings pitched and was debited with the loss.
"Yeah, I would like [to pitch], why not?" Volquez said about starting Wednesday. "[I] threw a bullpen today and I'd be ready to go if I get the opportunity ... I'm really excited. We have great group of pitchers, but if I get the call I'll be excited."
Cole said that the team has confidence in Volquez if he is the starter.
"When you look at the body of work it is hard not to be impressed," he said. "If he does indeed get the ball Wednesday it is well-deserved, and I think everybody in this room has the utmost confidence that he is the right guy to get it."
Cueto batting a surprise
As Charlie mentioned in his recap, it shocked just about everyone in the park when Bryan Price allowed Cueto to bat with one out and the go ahead run on third in the bottom of the eighth.
"Who wouldn't [be surprised]" Neil Walker said. "I mean I know what he is trying to do, get his 20th win, but, yeah, it's surprising."
"I think they were rolling him out to him a shot at 20 [wins]," Hurdle said. "I didn't get it [at the time]."
Pirates expect PNC Park to rock
Some selected quotes of what the Pirates expect from the crowd Wednesday night.
Hurdle: "I think it is going to be black, and I think it is going to be crazy, and I think it is going to be a whole lot of fun."
Josh Harrison: "I expect it to be the same as last year, man. Unreal. So loud that you can't hear the ball off the bat and the crowd in it from pitch one to the final out."
Walker: "We know what the Giants are going to have to deal with coming into our ballpark, so we're excited about that."
Cole: "I expect the same atmosphere [last year]. Fans should be fired up. We have good ball club coming with a big time pitcher. It's not going to be easy. We're going to have step it up. I hope we have a great turn out and rock that place."