If the Braves had swept this series and the Nationals lost their last 3, the Braves could have won the division so even though the Braves clinched a playoff spot, they took Game 1 of this series serious – that’s why Dan Uggla was the only starter not in the lineup (and that was only because of an injury). Even though both those scenarios probably weren’t going to happen to begin with, of course the Pirates played spoiler since they have absolutely nothing to play for now.
For the 50th time this season, the Buccos had a game decided by 1 run. For the 26th time, and for just the ninth time the second half, they found themselves on the winning side thanks to Jeff Locke and Starling Marte coming up big tim in the 2-1 win over the 93-win Braves.
Locke may have put together his best career start. For just he second time in his 6 starts, he didn’t give up a long ball and if he has that problem fixed by next season, he’s going to be a solid part of the Buccos’ rotation. He did walk 5 batters last night but until then free passes had never been a serious issue for him. But the key was Locke only gave up 2 hits over 6 innings while striking out 6, ad he got out of a bases-loaded jam in the third after allowing the Braves’ only run.
After the Bucs fell behind in the top half of third, Starling Marte got things going in the bottom half. He led off with a triple down the third base line – it should have been a standup double but as soon as Marte saw that Reed Johnson didn’t field the ball cleanly, he tightened up his PF Flyers and beat the throw to third. The kid is pretty damn fast when he wants to be.
And since Jeff Karstens, Tony Watson and Jared Hughes didn’t give up a single hit over the last 3 innings of relief, the monster shot by Marte to lead off the fifth turned out to be the game winner. Former Bucco - and the arm replaced by Erik Bedard - Paul Maholm left a 2-1 pitch up in the zone and Marte cranked his fifth homer jut to the left of the batters eye. We haven’t Marte Partayed since Aug .8 so it was great to see him knock another one out before the end of the year.
Say what you want about this season, and yea, it ended in a pretty awful way, but get over it and let’s look towards the future. For Locke and Marte to have the games they did against the lineup the Braves put out there and against a pitcher like Maholm, who’s having a career year and is going to be in the postseason rotation, is really really good news for the Buccos heading into next year.
Hoist the colors.