Pirates turn attention to division crown in Chicago

The Pittsburgh Pirates are going to the playoffs for the first time in 21 years, that much is certain.

The Pirates, though, still have a chance to do so as NL Central champs, but need some help. They also have to take care of business on Tuesday night in the second portion of a three-game set with the Chicago Cubs.

Pittsburgh secured its first postseason berth since 1992 -- the last of three straight NL East titles -- with a 2-1 victory over the Cubs on Monday as well as St. Louis' victory over Washington.

Both the Pirates and Reds, tied for the two NL wild card spots, clinched playoff spots with the Nationals' loss and the clubs trail the first-place Cardinals by two games in the NL Central.

Earlier in the season, Pirates fans were celebrating the club's first winning season since 1992. Now they have a chance to raise the Jolly Roger come playoff time.

"The fans in Pittsburgh have been waiting a long time for the baseball team to come back and play winning baseball," said second baseman Neil Walker. "I've been a part of this organization since 2004, I've seen a lot of players, seen a lot of up, seen a lot of downs, but we knew we had a special group here."

It was a thrilling, if not special, win as well. Starling Marte hit a homer in the top of the ninth to put the Pirates ahead and the game-clinching out was recorded on the bottom of the frame when the Cubs' Nate Schierholtz was thrown out at home.

That gave the Cubs their 10th loss in 13 games.

Gerrit Cole has not been a part of the Pirates' past struggles, but has been a key reason for their success this season. He takes the mound tonight off perhaps the best start of his young career.

Cole is 3-0 with a 1.38 earned run average in four starts this month and won his third outing in a row on Thursday versus San Diego. He struck out a career-high six batters over six innings of one-run ball.

The 23-year-old righty, who won the first four starts of his MLB career from June 11-28, had bested the Cubs one start earlier, giving up a run over seven innings while fanning seven.