CINCINNATI -- For whatever reason, the Great American Ball Park stadium crew blared Beatles songs on a loop Sunday morning. Neither team was taking batting practice on the field before the game that didn't matter, so perhaps the soundtrack didn't matter either.
As Gerrit Cole took the mound in the right-field bullpen for a side session, "Revolution" began playing. The game Sunday, a 4-2 Pirates win against the Cincinnati Reds, was a formality, but it represented the end of a three-year revolution, from a 105-loss club in 2010 to promising starts but faltering finishes the previous two years to a playoff-bound team this season.
"It's like the first time you take a punch on the playground ... ," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "Do you go home and tell dad, or do you go home, work out, get stronger and figure out how to fight back and throw some punches? And that's what we've done this year."
Players and staff will say the game did not represent the end of anything. They plan to continue playing. Whether they advance past their wild-card game Tuesday night or not, they still finished 94-68, in second place in the National League Central Division, and won the most games since the 1992 Pirates won 96.
"It shows where we've come from, shows where we are now," Andrew McCutchen said. "It makes winning that much sweeter. It's awesome to see what we're doing now."
They just missed the 95 wins Hurdle identified in spring training as a total that would give them a shot at winning the NL Central, but like any bold call, the point stands. Before the game, Hurdle picked up a stats pack and went down the list, noting that most playoff-bound teams had 95 wins or close to it.
"I wanted to let our men know that I believed we could be a very good team," Hurdle said. "I really didn't care what anybody else thought. I think from a position of leadership sometimes you've got to not only make yourself transparent, you've got to put yourself in some areas of vulnerability from time to time because of your belief in your men."
Hurdle inserted his bench players in the starting lineup Sunday with the exception of Pedro Alvarez, who entered the game tied with Arizona Diamondbacks first baseman Paul Goldschmidt for the NL home run lead with 36. Alvarez went 0 for 1 with a walk and a hit batsman.
"Let's give him the opportunity to finish an accomplishment that would be individually special," Hurdle said of starting Alvarez.
Other than that, Hurdle rested his regulars.
"I think we'll use this pretty specifically as a work day, as well as a major league game, to get some guys at-bats that potentially could be helping us off the bench and get some more guys involved in some innings on the field that haven't been out there as much," Hurdle said.
McCutchen did not play, meaning the MVP candidate finished the season with a .317 average, 21 home runs, 27 steals, a .404 on-base percentage and a .508 slugging percentage in 157 games played.
"As we continue to finish up our exit interviews at the end of the day he's one of the most honest self-evaluators that I've come across because in his words, there's work to be done," Hurdle said. "There's areas to improve. He understands his importance on the team and his responsibilities here. He impacts the middle of the order, he touches the game in all facets and all five tools have helped us win games this year."
McCutchen said more time must pass before he evaluates his season.
"I assess all that when everything is said and done," he said. "I haven't really given myself the time to really think about it yet. There's still work to be done."
Jordy Mercer hit an inside-the-park home run in the second inning and finished a double shy of the cycle. Garrett Jones homered in the eighth. Brandon Cumpton pitched five scoreless innings.
The Pirates are guaranteed at least one more game, Tuesday night at PNC Park against the Reds at 8:07 p.m. In contrast to Sunday's game, the contest Tuesday, a wild-card playoff for the right to advance to the National League Division Series, will mean everything.
Bill Brink: firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @BrinkPG. First Published September 29, 2013 8:15 PM