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Pittsburgh Pirates get home field for wild-card game

By
John Perrotto, The Sports Xchange
Pittsburgh Pirates manager Clint Hurdle (13) congratulates Pittsburgh Pirates relief pitcher Mark Melancon (35) following the 4-0 win against the Cincinnati Reds at PNC Park in Pittsburgh on October 4, 2015. Photo by Archie Carpenter/UPI
Pittsburgh Pirates manager Clint Hurdle (13) congratulates Pittsburgh Pirates relief pitcher Mark Melancon (35) following the 4-0 win against the Cincinnati Reds at PNC Park in Pittsburgh on October 4, 2015. Photo by Archie Carpenter/UPI | License Photo

PITTSBURGH -- The Pittsburgh Pirates will be home for the National League wild-card game and are thankful for that.

J.A. Happ pitched six strong innings to lead the Pirates to a 4-0 victory over the Cincinnati Reds on Sunday in the regular-season finale, enabling Pittsburgh to clinch home field in the wild-card game.

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Third baseman Josh Harrison and catcher Francisco Cervelli each had three hits.

The Pirates (98-64) will host the Cubs (97-65) on Wednesday night in the winner-take-all game after finishing one game ahead of Chicago in the wild-card standings. Right-hander Gerrit Cole (19-8, 2.60) will start for the Pirates, and major-league wins leader Jake Arrieta (22-6, 1.77) will pitch for the Cubs.

"Any time you get a chance to keep your regular routine and don't have to worry about traveling, moving, flying and adjusting to an hour-time difference, it's a good thing," Harrison said.

The Pirates went 53-28 at PNC Park in the regular season

"We love playing at home," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "Our guys love pitching at home. There's opportunity for it to be a really good ballgame. I know our fans will show up and it will be loud and it will be proud. Our guys will be ready for it."

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Happ (11-8) allowed three hits, struck out seven and walked two. The left-hander said he didn't have his best stuff, but he improved to 7-2 in 11 starts since being acquired July 31 from the Seattle Mariners in a trade.

"I just tried to execute pitches the best I can, move the ball up and down, in and out," Happ said.

Relievers Joakim Soria, Tony Watson and Mark Melancon pitched one inning each to finish off the six-hit shutout.

"Happ's been real good," Cincinnati manager Bryan Price said. "We just couldn't create a great deal of scoring opportunity against him. Then they get to their primary guys, Soria, Watson then Melancon, and that's a nice way to finish off a ballgame. It set up well for them and we just weren't able to do the Cubs any favors today."

The Pirates wound up with the second-best record in the major leagues but finished second to the St. Louis Cardinals (100-62) in the NL Central. Pittsburgh will host the wild-card game for the third year in a row after beating Cincinnati in 2013 and losing to the San Francisco Giants last season.

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The Pirates had 20 straight losing seasons, the longest streak in major North American professional sports history, before their current run of postseason appearances.

The Pirates needed either to win Sunday or have the Cubs lose at Milwaukee -- Chicago beat the Brewers 3-1 -- in order to play at home. Harrison, though, said the Pirates weren't fixated on what was happening at Miller Park.

"There are times when in between innings when you might be taking ground balls that you take a look out at the scoreboard but it wasn't like we were all sitting in the dugout worrying about it," Harrison said. "At the end of the day, we've got to worry about ourselves and that's what's made us so good this season."

The Reds (64-98), who snapped a 13-game losing streak on Saturday night, finished last in the NL Central and have the second-worst record in the major leagues behind the Philadelphia Phillies (63-99).

That is the Reds' most losses since 1937 when they went 56-98, and their first last-place finish since 1983.

"We've got to get ready for next year now," said Reds third baseman Todd Frazier, who had two hits. "That's the bottom line."

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First baseman Pedro Alvarez's 479-foot leadoff home run to center field in the fourth inning, his team-high 27th, made it 2-0 after Harrison doubled in the first and scored on second baseman Neil Walker's single.

Back-to-back doubles by Cervelli and shortstop Jordy Mercer -- who had two hits -- in the sixth and back-to-back doubles by right fielder Gregory Polanco and Harrison in the seventh padded the Pirates' lead.

Rookie right-hander Josh Smith (0-4) remained winless in seven career starts as he gave up two runs and seven hits in four innings with four strikeouts and no walks. Rookies started 110 games for the Reds, including the last 64, and both are major league records.

NOTES: Pirates RHP A.J. Burnett and 3B Aramis Ramirez, who are retiring at the end of the season, were honored in a pregame ceremony. ... Ramirez got the day off in a day game after a night game with INF/OF Josh Harrison starting at third base. ... The Pirates set a single-season attendance record for a second straight year with a total of 2,498,596, up 56,032 from last season,

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