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Bucs rejoice while Cubs will finish last in sorry season

  • There was a second straight night of celebrating in the Wrigley Field visitor’s clubhouse when the Pittsburgh Pirates Monday clinched their first playoff spot since 1992 a day after the Atlanta Braves held their Sunday celebration winning the National League East.
  • The Pirates had to hold on to a 2-1 victory over the Cubs first, with a dramatic play at the plate retiring Nate Schierholtz as he tried to score a tying run. Instead, first baseman Justin Morneau’s relay throw to catcher Russell Martin was in time and Martin held on against a barreling Schierholtz to start the on-field cheers.
  • Soon afterward, the St. Louis Cardinals defeated the Washington Nationals, the last potential pursuer of the Pirates and Cincinnati Reds for the two National League wild card spots. The PIrates will be in the playoffs, though it likely will be against the Reds in a one-game showdown.
  • But making the playoffs was a major accomplishment, one the Cubs still dream of after the loss, coupled with Milwaukee’s victory against Atlanta assured them of a last place finish for the first time since 2006.
  • “It brought back memories,” Schierholtz said of the Braves celebration Sunday, Schierholtz having been part of lSan Francisco Giants past playoff teams.
  • “That’s what it’s all about,” said Cubs starter Jeff Samardzija, who allowed only a Neil Walker home run through six innings with seven strikeouts. “If you’re just here to play until next year, that’s not what it’s about. We want to get to the point where you’re not shooting to survive but shooting to thrive.”
  • For Samardzija, who gets one more start next week in St. Louis, his season has been a time of learning and not just the disappointment of a losing record (8-12) and 4.33 ERA.
  • “I learned in situations with runners on base, you have to bear down. Whether you give up one or no runs, that’s a big swing. I can strike guys out. I need to cut down on those [big innings].
  • “I look back on the season and there are times I haven’t done that. It’s learning as a starter and mentally staying in with every pitch and not giving in. Starting is about limiting damage.
  • “I felt pretty good [physically] all year,” he said. “I’ll change up my routine in the off season, flushing my body out to get back to zero for spring training.
  • “You have to focus on how you feel for spring training rather than what you’re throwing,” he said.