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Pirates blow out Rockies 13-7, clinch playoff berth

Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Charlie Morton and the Pirates nearly coughed up a 7-1 lead, but the Bucs piled on late to defeat the Rockies 13-7 and clinch their third straight playoff berth.

The Pirates scored two in the first thanks to a series of singles that culminated with a two-run base hit by Neil Walker. Andrew McCutchen and Starling Marte then singled in the third, and Walker hit Christian Bergman's elevated changeup to right for a three-run shot, his 15th homer of the year.

The Rockies scored one run in a ground-ball-filled bottom of the third, but the Pirates got two more runs in the fourth. Gregory Polanco and Josh Harrison singled, McCutchen walked, and Marte hit a two-run double to left.

In the bottom of the inning, though, the Rockies loaded the bases on three straight ground-ball singles off Morton, who then walked Daniel Descalso to bring in a run. In the fifth, Morton gave up a leadoff homer to Corey Dickerson, then two more singles.

Before that inning, based on the Bucs' big lead and the way the series had gone so far, it had seemed impossible that the Pirates could lose. But heretofore-unknown catcher Tom Murphy -- who homered off the Pirates on Monday -- struck again to get the Rockies back in the game. Morton's curveball caught too much of the plate, and Murphy blasted off to center for a three-run shot that cut the Bucs' lead to 7-6.

The Bucs' bullpen took over after that and was terrific, though, not even allowing a baserunner for 3.2 innings until the offense could get going again. Joe Blanton got five straight outs, and Joakim Soria followed him and induced three grounders. Then Tony Watson pitched a 1-2-3 eighth.

The Bucs headed into the ninth with a one-run lead, but then they broke the game open in a big way. Walker and Francisco Cervelli led off the inning with singles. Travis Snider then grounded into a force out, and was replaced by pinch-runner Keon Broxton. Jordy Mercer walked, and Sean Rodriguez doubled to center to bring them all home and put the Bucs up by four. For good measure, Polanco then doubled home Rodriguez, and Harrison singled in Polanco. (Polanco came into second awkwardly on his double, though, and limped as he scored; here's hoping he's okay.) Then Walker singled on a ground ball to left for his sixth RBI of the night.

Arquimedes Caminero pitched the ninth and gave up an irrelevant run before finally retiring the Rockies over a soundtrack of "Let's go Bucs" chants in Denver.

The last batter was, appropriately, former Pirate Justin Morneau, who played a big role in the play that resulted in a playoff-clinching win for the Bucs in 2013. This will be the third straight year the Pirates have clinched a playoff berth on September 23. If you haven't gone back and watched video of the 2013 clinching game at Wrigley, or their 2014 clincher in Atlanta, feel free to watch them now and smile all over again.