Baseball-Cubs reach postseason despite losing to Pirates

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Sept 25 (The Sports Xchange) - The Chicago Cubs qualified for the postseason for the first time since 2008 despite losing 3-2 to the Pittsburgh Pirates at Wrigley Field on Friday. The Pirates (94-60) moved 4 1/2 games ahead of the Cubs (89-64) with eight regular-season games to play, but Chicago clinched a postseason berth when the Oakland A's defeated the San Francisco Giants 5-4 later that night. Pirates right-hander Gerrit Cole (18-8) worked seven full innings for the win in a tight duel with Cubs left-hander Jon Lester, who also worked seven innings and fell to 10-12 with the loss. Pittsburgh right-handed closer Mark Melancon struggled to shut the door in the ninth. He gave up a double to pinch hitter Chris Denorfia and a run-scoring triple to second baseman Starlin Castro before securing the victory by striking out Javier Baez for his major-league-leading 51st save. An announced crowd of 40,432 crowded into Wrigley Field anticipating history as the Cubs sought to clinch their first postseason playoff berth since 2008. Since then, the Cubs had wandered through five straight losing seasons -- including 101 defeats in 2012 -- plus three managers until Joe Maddon helped right the ship with a collection of veterans and promising young talent. Cole's third-inning one-out single up the middle scored shortstop Jordy Mercer from second for a 1-0 Pirates lead. Hitless through the first three innings, the Cubs tied the game 1-1 in the fourth. Third baseman Kris Bryant collected the Cubs' first hit, a leadoff single. He reached third on first baseman Anthony Rizzo's bloop single to center and scored on shortstop Addison Russell's fielder's choice grounder to short. Pirates third baseman Aramis Ramirez doubled into the left-field corner leading off the seventh. Ramirez was replaced by pinch runner Keon Broxton, who reached third on catcher Francisco Cervelli's sacrifice bunt and came home for a 2-1 lead on first baseman Michael Morse's base hit to right. Lester and catcher David Ross were both lifted for pinch hitters in the Cubs seventh. Lester gave up two runs on five hits while striking out six and walking none. Cole was pulled for a pinch hitter in the eighth as the Pirates put men on first and third on Cubs right-handed reliever Pedro Strop. Mercer scored from third to make it 3-1 on left fielder Starling Marte's fielder's choice grounder. Cole allowed one run on four hits, struck out eight and walked a pair. The Cubs had runners on first and second with two outs in the eighth but Rizzo struck out. (Editing by Julian Linden)