MLB Team Report - Pittsburgh Pirates - INSIDE PITCH


CINCINNATI -- Pittsburgh Pirates manager Clint Hurdle was poignant in his responses when asked why he didn't save right-hander Gerrit Cole, arguably his best pitcher, for a potential wild-card game on Wednesday, instead using hi in a losing effort in Cincinnati on Sunday.

"There's no way we're going to walk away from an opportunity to win our division," Hurdle said before Sunday's game. "After 161 games of grit and fight and battle, we're trying to make history here. We're going to attack it this way.

Cole started Sunday's regular-season against the Reds at Great American Ball Park with the Pirates needing a win and a St. Louis Cardinals loss to force a one-game playoff Monday at Busch Stadium to decide the National League Central title.

Cole was sharp, allowing just one earned run on four hits in seven innings. He did not walk a batter and tied a career-high with 12 strikeouts. But, Cincinnati won the game 4-1, clinching the NL Central crown for the Cardinals.

Hurdle indicated prior to Sunday's game that right-hander Edinson Volquez would pitch the wild-card game Wednesday. Volquez has been the Pirates' hottest pitcher with a 1.36 ERA in September.

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MLB Team Report - Pittsburgh Pirates - NOTES, QUOTES


RECORD: 88-74, second place in National League Central

NEXT: NL wild-card game, Wednesday -- Giants (LHP Madison Bumgarner, 18-10, 2.98 ERA) at Pirates (RHP Edinson Volquez, 13-7, 3.04 ERA)

PLAYER NOTES:

--RHP Gerrit Cole was sharp in his final regular-season start, allowing just one earned run on four hits in seven innings. He did not walk a batter and tied a career-high with 12 strikeouts. But, Cincinnati won the game 4-1, clinching the NL Central crown for the Cardinals.

--C Russell Martin missed his second straight start on Sunday with a left hamstring strain. Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said Martin might have been able to play, but opted to start Chris Stewart behind the plate instead. Martin hit safely in 13 straight games from Sept. 7-22. The hamstring has been a recurring issue.

--C Chris Stewart was hit on the left wrist by Johnny Cueto's bat in the eighth inning of Sunday's game. Stewart was struck on the backswing after Cueto singled home the go-ahead run. X-rays were negative. Stewart left the game and Tony Sanchez took over behind the plate. Stewart is day-to-day.

--2B Neil Walker hit his 23rd home run on Sunday afternoon in Cincinnati, his fifth home run this season at Great American Ball Park. Walker's home run came off Reds' ace Johnny Cueto in the fourth inning and tied the score 1-1. Walker had already established a club record for homers by a middle-infielder.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "We're going to find out. But I like our team. I like our fight. I like our grit." -- Pirates manager Clint Hurdle when asked if his team was ready for the postseason after a loss in Cincinnati on Sunday.

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MLB Team Report - Pittsburgh Pirates - ROSTER REPORT


MEDICAL WATCH: