Bucs' win puts them on verge of postseason

Bucs' win puts them on verge of postseason

DENVER -- Left-hander J.A. Happ and the upper part of the Pirates' batting order all but officially secured the club of a third straight postseason berth on Tuesday night by fashioning a businesslike 6-3 victory over the Rockies in front of 23,433 at Coors Field.

Happ (6-2) struck out eight in 5 1/3 innings and the offense scored six runs in the first four innings to back him as the Pirates did their part, but they didn't get the help they needed from the Padres to punch their playoff ticket. The Giants stayed alive in the National League Wild Card race with a 4-2 victory in San Diego a couple of hours after the Bucs finished off the Rockies.

The Pirates will be assured of at least one of the NL Wild Card spots with one more win or a Giants loss. The Giants' win didn't exactly spoil the Pirates' party plans. They didn't even want to stick around until the end of the Giants-Padres game.

"I brought the leadership council in here, and they're ready to go home," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "We'll figure it out from there. If it happens, it happens. If it doesn't, we'll show up and win a game tomorrow.

"Our guys have great presence. We're in the moment. We do what we got to do today. We're not looking at yesterday. We're not looking at the team behind us. We're not looking at tomorrow or the team in front of us. We need to take care of our game."

Or, as star center fielder Andrew McCutchen put it, it was too late in the evening to do any scoreboard watching.

"When it's official it's official," McCutchen said before leaving the park after a 3-hour, 22-minute contest. "If [the Giants] happen to lose and we clinch tonight, we can celebrate tomorrow. I'd rather go to bed."

The Pirates, who got two hits apiece from Josh Harrison and Starling Marte, trail the NL Central-leading Cardinals by four games and hold home-field advantage for the Wild Card with a two-game lead over the Cubs. Both St. Louis and Chicago won on Tuesday.

The Pirates did their early damage against Rockies left-hander Chris Rusin (5-9), who gave up eight hits and six runs in four innings. Each of the Pirates' runs came with two out.

"That was frustrating," Rusin said. "I'd get two outs, then the guy that I walked would score on a base hit. I fell behind hitters and I walked [four] guys. I hurt myself."

The Rockies benefited from Wilin Rosario's sixth homer of the season, off Happ in the second, and trailed 4-3 after a two-run third. But Aramis Ramirez's RBI triple and Marte's single in the fourth provided a three-run lead that closer Mark Melancon and the Pirates' bullpen didn't relinquish.

Melancon earns the save

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Early, often and timely: The Pirates scored in each of the first four innings, totaling six runs in that span, all with two outs by going 5-for-9 with runners in scoring position. Marte, who had four hits on Monday night, led the way in this one by picking up where he left off. He had an RBI double in the first and an RBI single in the fourth.

Marte's RBI double

Arenado gets right, gets hurt: Nolan Arenado was 0-for-12 with eight strikeouts when he drove in a run with a two-out single in the third inning. It wasn't all good news for the Rockies' third baseman, however, as he was removed from the game in the top of the ninth after Jordy Mercer's sharp one-hopper caught him on the inside of his left wrist as he made a diving attempt to snare it. He was shaken up after hitting the ground hard, but he passed postgame concussion tests.

"He'll be fine," Rockies manager Walt Weiss said. "He hit his head pretty hard on the ground. At that point, there was no sense keeping him out there." More >

Arenado leaves game

Notable achievement: Ramirez's run-scoring triple in the fourth was the 2,300th hit of his career. Ramirez ranks ninth in that category among active players. The Pirates' third baseman was lifted for a pinch-hitter in the sixth due to tightness in his left groin.

Ramirez's RBI triple

A harmless pinch: Happ struck out Rockies pinch-hitter Kyle Parker to end the fourth with runners on first and third. Parker is 15-for-93 (.161) with 32 strikeouts since being promoted from Triple-A Albuquerque on Aug. 1. In his past 19 games, he is 3-for-45 (.067) with 18 strikeouts.

Happ's eight strikeouts

UPON FURTHER REVIEW
Rockies catcher Dustin Garneau erased Keon Broxton on an attempted steal of second base in the top of the seventh. Pirates manager Clint Hurdle challenged, but replay confirmed that second baseman DJ LeMahieu made a sweep tag on Broxton's back in time.

Garneau throws out Broxton

WHAT'S NEXT
Pirates: Charlie Morton (9-8, 4.26 ERA), who has a 2.55 ERA over his past four road starts, will take the mound for the Pirates as this series continues on Wednesday at 8:40 p.m. ET.

Rockies: Righty Christian Bergman (3-0, 3.81), who has pitched well in September out of the bullpen, will replace lefty Jorge De La Rosa (right Achilles' tendon soreness) and start Wednesday night's game at 6:40 p.m. MT.

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Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com and Jack Etkin is an MLB.com contributor. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.