PITTSBURGH -- J.A. Happ, a non-waiver Trade Deadline insurance acquisition who has paid a huge premium, pitched the Pirates into home-field advantage for the National League Wild Card Game presented by Budweiser, hurling six shutout innings Sunday in the Bucs' 4-0 victory over the Cincinnati Reds.
The Pirates' 98th win of the season clinched top-seed Wild Card status over the Cubs, despite Chicago's 3-1 victory in Milwaukee. The Cubs won their last eight games of the regular season but could not head off Pittsburgh. Right-handers Jake Arrieta of the Cubs and Gerrit Cole of the Pirates will square off Wednesday at 8 p.m. ET (on TBS) in PNC Park.
"It should be exciting. I think everybody is really happy that we'll have the game here," said Happ -- one of the newcomers in the Pirates' clubhouse who did not experience the team's 2013-14 Wild Card games.
Happ improved to 7-2 with a 1.85 ERA since joining the Pirates, holding the Reds to three hits while striking out seven with three walks.
"You just try to treat it as any other game," said the low-key left-hander, of being able to sustain the efficient pitching in his two-month Pittsburgh tenure amid the high-stakes pressure. "The early score [a first-inning run] helped, then we played some sharp defense and [catcher Francisco Cervelli] called a great game."
Josh Smith, making possibly the last of 64 consecutive starts by Cincinnati rookie pitchers, went four innings and allowed seven hits, including a fourth-inning solo homer by Pedro Alvarez estimated at 479 feet.
"It would have been a nice game to win for sure. We just couldn't get anything going," Reds manager Bryan Price said. "Happ's been good with the Pirates, really good. We just couldn't create a great deal of scoring opportunity against him and they got to their primary [bullpen] guys -- [Joakim] Soria, [Tony] Watson and [Mark] Melancon. You've really got your work cut out for you when you have to come back from three or four runs down against that trio."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Going really deep: Alvarez's 27th homer did not reach the Allegheny River -- as two of his earlier homers this season have -- but only because this one was not pulled, instead soaring over the right-center stands. At an estimated 479 feet, however, it would certainly have been long enough to get wet -- the river is measured as being 456 from home plate down the right-field foul line.
13-pitch plate appearance for Votto:Joey Votto's streak of reaching safely ended Saturday at 48 games, but his ability to work a pitcher remains impeccable. Against Happ with two outs in the sixth, Votto worked a 13-pitch plate appearance before drawing a walk. After a 2-1 count, Votto fouled off five-straight fastballs and three-straight pitches after getting ball 3. Happ's 13th pitch was a fastball that missed high and in, which gave Votto his league leading 143rd walk. More >
Trying to make something happen: The Reds had a two-out opportunity in the second inning with runners on first and second base. Todd Frazier attempted to steal third base with Brayan Pena batting, but was thrown out by Cervelli to end the inning. In the sixth inning, with two outs after Votto's walk, Brandon Phillips hit a single down the left-field line but was thrown out trying for a double on a great throw from Starling Marte.
"When you're not scoring ... Frazier started and kind of had a little hesitation," Price said. "He started, hesitated and went -- otherwise he steals that base easily. He still made it a close play. Brandon is the same thing. Marte gets my Gold Glove vote, not just because he catches everything but because he's accurate and strong with his throwing arm."
"We kind of glanced up there while taking grounders [in the infield] before innings started. But it's not like anyone was going in the dugout, 'Oh, look what the Cubs are doing.' We knew that if we took care of our own business, everything would be all right." -- Harrison, on whether the Bucs were scoreboard-watching as the Cubs-Brewers game was unfolding simultaneously
"We'll be coming out of Spring Training differently, with a different club in many ways than we had coming out of 2015. A completely rebuilt starting rotation, probably a largely remodeled bullpen and just some new faces, which always happens. ... After a year like this, we have to make something of this season. This was a season to move us toward better places. If not, it's just a failure and it just can't be a season of failure. It has to be something that moves us to a better place." -- Price, after the Reds finished 64-98 in their first last-place finish since 1983
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Sunday's crowd of 35,362 set PNC Park season attendance at 2,498,596, setting a franchise record; the old standard of 2,442,564 had been set last year.
UPON FURTHER REVIEW
On the Phillips play in the sixth inning, he was nailed at second base on the throw from Marte to Neil Walker. The Reds challenged the call from umpire Tim Timmons, but it took only 34 seconds for review officials to confirm that Walker tagged Phillips in time.
WHAT'S NEXT Pirates: The Bucs will likely get a full day off Monday, then hold a Tuesday workout to get ready for Wednesday night's NL Wild Card Game.
Reds: Cincinnati heads into the offseason with many unknowns. Price will return as manager, but there are question marks about the coaching staff's status, the rotation, bullpen and some parts of the lineup. Expect some further retooling after a painful season.