PITTSBURGH — The Miami Marlins‘ improbable September push will carry into October.
Jazz Chisholm hit his 19th home run, Josh Bell delivered a late two-run double and the Marlins clinched the fourth playoff berth in franchise history with a 7-3 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates on Saturday night.
Miami locked down one of the two remaining National League wild-card spots behind Chisholm’s drive, a dash of small ball and another lockdown performance by a bullpen that has carried a sizable share of the load over the last month.
A.J. Puk (7-5) and seven other relievers kept the Pirates in check, rendering any scoreboard-watching pointless.
Miami began the day with its magic number whittled to one following another late comeback victory on Friday night.
One officially dropped to zero when closer Tanner Scott wrapped up his 12th save by striking out the side in the ninth, setting off a celebration on the field and behind the Miami dugout, where a small clutch of fans chanted “Lets Go Marlins” in the ninth.
Buoyed by first-year manager Skip Schumaker’s relentless optimism and a “why not us” approach, the largely anonymous Marlins — who finished with 93 or more losses in each of the previous four non-pandemic-shortened seasons — will be in the playoffs next week while big spenders like the New York Mets and San Diego Padres will be watching from home.
What they’ll see is a team that keeps finding a way despite a roster bereft of stars outside of the electrifying Chisholm, who was 5 years old growing up in the Bahamas in 2003, the last time the Marlins made the playoffs at the end of a 162-game regular season.
Little was expected, yet the Marlins entered September at .500 (67-67) and on the fringe of an underwhelming wild-card race before hitting the gas over the last four weeks.
Miami used a 17-9 September surge to vault over San Francisco, Chicago and surprising Cincinnati in the standings.
Jon Berti had three hits for the Marlins and started the go-ahead rally with a leadoff walk in the sixth off Quinn Priester (3-3), beginning a sequence that symbolized Miami’s “whatever it takes” approach.
Garrett Hampson bunted for a hit when Nick Gonzalez was late covering the bag at first. Both runners advanced on a sacrifice by Jacob Stallings and Berti put the Marlins in front 3-2 by beating shortstop Liover Pegeuro’s throw home on a sharp grounder by Jorge Soler. Bell’s sacrifice fly pushed the advantage to 4-2.
Bell — who spent five years with the Pirates from 2016-20 before bouncing from Washington to San Diego to Cleveland to Miami — provided the Marlins with some welcome insurance in the eighth with a long drive to center that drove in Berti and Soler.
A night after rallying from three runs down after the seventh inning for the sixth time this season — the most by any MLB team since 1900 — the Marlins made sure no such dramatics were required.
Endy Rodriguez had three hits and drove in a run for the Pirates. Jared Triolo and Ke’Bryan Hayes added two hits each. Bryan Reynolds provided an RBI single in the bottom of the eighth that trimmed Miami’s lead to three, but the Pirates would get no closer.
Priester, a first-round pick in the 2019 amateur draft, put together 5 1/3 workmanlike innings as he tries to position himself for a spot in the starting rotation in 2024. Priester allowed four runs on 10 hits with a walk and three strikeouts to finish his rookie season with a 7.74 ERA in 10 games (seven starts).
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