J.A. Happ pitched six shutout innings against the foundering Reds as the Bucs won 4-0 Sunday, clinching home field advantage in the Wild Card game on the last day of the regular season. The Cubs beat the Brewers 3-1, but the Pirates' win rendered that outcome meaningless.
It helped, of course, that the Bucs were facing the Reds, whose train wreck of a season concludes with their 98th loss. Reds starter Josh Smith gave up a one-out double to Josh Harrison in the first, then an RBI single to Neil Walker to give the Pirates a 1-0 lead. In the fourth, he served up an 89-MPH fastball to Pedro Alvarez, who whacked it to right center and almost to the river to put the Bucs up 2-0 with his 27th homer of the year.
In the sixth, Francisco Cervelli and Jordy Mercer (edit: not Travis Snider, sorry) hit back-to-back doubles off Carlos Contreras to put the Pirates up by three. The following inning, Gregory Polanco and Harrison did the same off Sam LeCure to give the Bucs a 4-0 lead.
Meanwhile, Happ recorded seven strikeouts over his six innings. Happ's regular season with the Pirates concludes with a remarkable 69 strikeouts in 63.1 innings, with an ERA south of two. Joakim Soria and Tony Watson each pitched an inning without trouble (although Watson gave up a couple ground-ball singles in his). Mark Melancon pitched the ninth.
So the Bucs finished with 98 wins, matching their own modern record, which they set in 1979 and tied in 1991. The last time the Pirates had more wins than 98 was all the way back in 1909, when they won 110 games. Whatever happens on Wednesday, this has been a hell of a season, and it's a shame the Cardinals' even more ridiculous win total has at times prevented us from seeing it.
Aramis Ramirez had the day off, and he and A.J. Burnett have both now likely played their last regular season games. Ramirez finishes his career in the regular season with a .283/.341/.492 line and 386 career homers; Burnett ends his with a 3.99 ERA, 164 wins and 2,513 strikeouts. The Pirates honored them both before the game. Here's hoping the Bucs can get another month's worth of strong performances from each of them before they begin the next chapters of their lives.