For teams in a pennant race, any September win is a good thing. It's better when the win propels the team into first place. And better still when the key contributions come from unexpected sources.
It was only one win -- no more, no less than any other -- but that the Pirates could beat the Milwaukee Brewers yesterday, 5-2, with Clint Barmes and Jose Tabata being the key offensive contributors -- along with Neil Walker -- makes this one just a little bit nicer.
As did yet another terrific performance from Charlie Morton, who won his third straight start. He has allowed only two earned runs in these starts, which totaled 21 2/3 innings, for an ERA of 0.84.
In his past six starts, Morton has pitched at least six innings and not allowed more than two runs.
Morton looks solid for October.
Not many would have said that about Tabata, but his play in recent weeks has been outstanding with an OPS of over .800 since the first of August. It would not be correct to say the Pirates haven't missed Starling Marte, but Tabata's recent play has made the absence of Marte easier to bear.
In the third, Barmes singled, went to second on a sacrifice by Morton and scored on a single by Tabata. In the fifth, Barmes doubled, went to third on a sacrifice by Morton and scored on a Tabata single.
Walker got into that act in the seventh. After Morton and Tabata singled in a 2-1 game, Walker homered to secure the victory. It was Walker's 10th homer of the year and his third since August. 20.
With Cincinnati beating St. Louis, the Pirates took a one-game lead in the NL Central with 25 remaining. Expect a lot of back and forth in the days ahead. But with the Pirates' recent additions of Marlon Byrd, John Buck and Justin Morneau, they are positioned as well or better than St. Louis and Cincinnati to win the NL Central.