ATLANTA – Gerrit Cole was so focused on recording 17 consecutive outs, he didn’t glance at the out-of-town scoreboard.
Cole insisted he didn’t know his win over Atlanta had clinched a playoff spot for Pittsburgh until he walked into the clubhouse and saw the lockers covered in plastic.
The surging Pirates earned their second straight trip to the postseason with a 3-2 victory over the free-falling Braves on Tuesday night.
Cole gave up two runs in the first two innings and then didn’t allow another baserunner.
The Pirates’ win combined with Milwaukee’s loss to Cincinnati assured Pittsburgh of no worse than an NL wild card.
“I didn’t have any idea until I came in here,” Cole said.
Pittsburgh also moved within 1½ games of NL Central leader St. Louis, which lost to the Chicago Cubs in 10 innings.
The Pirates wrapped up their postseason berth exactly one year after clinching a place in the 2013 playoffs to end a 21-year drought.
“I think it establishes our presence in this league that we’re not going to go away,” Cole said.
The Pirates reacted to the final out on Tuesday with little emotion. Players exchanged high-fives in a line on the field before sharing hugs in front of their dugout. The emotions flowed with champagne and beer in the clubhouse.
Andrew McCutchen, last year’s NL MVP and a contender again this season, wore big ski goggles as he held a bottle of champagne in one hand and lit a big victory cigar.
McCutchen, who had two hits and scored the go-ahead run in the sixth, already had his focus on bigger goals.
“To celebrate is fun, but we’ve still got to take care of business,” he said.
Starling Marte gave Pittsburgh the lead with a sixth-inning double that drove in McCutchen.
“We didn’t panic,” McCutchen said. “That’s what’s good about this team.”
Dodgers 4, Giants 2
In Los Angeles, Justin Turner homered twice and Matt Kemp had a two-run shot in a testy first inning, helping the Dodgers beat the second-place Giants to stretch their NL West lead to 4½ games.
Nationals 4, Mets 2
In Washington, Nationals center fielder Denard Span left in the third inning after making a diving, tumbling catch.
Reds 3, Brewers 1
In Cincinnati, Johnny Cueto kept his hopes of a 20-win season in play, and Todd Frazier and Devin Mesoraco hit back-to-back homers, sending the Reds to a victory that pushed the Brewers to the verge of elimination from wild card contention.
Marlins 2, Phillies 0
In Miami, Henderson Alvarez pitched into the eighth inning to outduel Cole Hamels.
Cubs 4, Cardinals 3 (10)
In Chicago, Welington Castillo homered and drove in the winning run with a 10th-inning single, giving the Cubs a victory over the Cardinals that tightened the NL Central race.
Rockies 3, Padres 2
In San Diego, Drew Stubbs hit a tiebreaking home run leading off the eighth and left fielder Brandon Barnes robbed Rene Rivera of a tying shot in the bottom of the inning.
Tigers 4, White Sox 3
In Detroit, Miguel Cabrera’s RBI single in the bottom of the ninth lifted the Tigers to a key victory.
Orioles 5, Yankees 4
In New York, Nelson Cruz hit his major league-leading 40th home run and the Orioles pushed Derek Jeter and the Yankees to the brink of playoff elimination.
Ichiro Suzuki went 1-for-4 for New York.
Blue Jays 10, Mariners 2
In Toronto, Dalton Pompey hit his first major league homer and the Blue Jays roughed up Felix Hernandez for a career worst-tying eight earned runs.
Munenori Kawasaki finished 1-for-4 for Toronto.
Rays 6, Red Sox 2
In Boston, Ben Zobrist had three hits and drove in Tampa Bay’s first two runs during an eighth inning rally.
Rangers 2, Astros 1
In Arlington, Texas, Nick Martinez pitched 6⅔ scoreless innings and Robinson Chirinos homered.
Royals 7, Indians 1
In Cleveland, rookie Yordano Ventura blanked the Indians’ punchless offense for seven innings as the Royals kept pressure on first-place Detroit in the AL Central.
Norichika Aoki finished 1-for-4 for Kansas City.
Angels 2, Athletics 0
In Oakland, Gordon Beckham homered and the Angels dropped the Athletics into a tie for the top AL wild card.
Twins 6, Diamondbacks 3
In Minneapolis, Kyle Gibson matched a career high with eight strikeouts, Chris Parmelee hit a two-run single after entering the game for an injured Joe Mauer.