Tied with the Cardinals at 78 wins and 56 losses, the Pirates defeated their NL Central rival tonight by a score of 7-1 to move into sole possession of first place. They will enter September in first place for the first time since 1992, the last year the Pirates made the post-season. (It was also Barry Bonds’ final season with the franchise.)
A.J. Burnett held the Cardinal offense at bay, allowing just one run on four hits and a walk while striking out six over seven innings. The offense was relentless early as Burnett and Jose Tabata each knocked RBI singles off of Cardinals starter Lance Lynn in the second. Then, in the third, Marlon Byrd hit an RBI single, Russell Martin crushed a three-run home run to center, and Neil Walker laced an RBI triple for a five-spot to go up 7-1. Vin Mazzarro pitched a scoreless eighth and ninth as the Pirates wrapped up an easy victory.
First baseman Justin Morneau, recently acquired from the Twins for outfielder Alex Presley, joined the team during the game but was not used.
In other debut news, reliever John Axford made his Cardinals debut, retiring the Pirates in order in the bottom of the seventh. The Cardinals acquired Axford from the Brewers yesterday for a player to be named later.
Tigers first baseman Miguel Cabrera didn’t play in the Tigers’ season finale against the White Sox, but he has officially clinched the AL batting title with a .338 average following Sunday’s action. It’s Cabrera’s fourth batting title in his last five seasons.
Marlins second baseman Dee Gordon entered Sunday’s season finale with a bit more pressure. He was in a tight race with Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper for the NL batting title, trailing only by rounding to the fourth place, .3307 to .3306. Gordon went 3-for-4 in a loss to the Phillies while Harper went 1-for-4 in a loss to the Mets. As a result, Gordon officially won the NL batting title with a .330 average. It’s the first batting title of Gordon’s brief career. Hanley Ramirez was the Marlins’ last batting champion, doing so in 2009.
Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times reports that the Angels are expected to announce Billy Eppler as their new general manager on Monday. Eppler had been serving as the assistant general manager with the Yankees.
Jerry DiPoto had been the Angels’ GM but he stepped down on July 1. DiPoto later joined the Red Sox in an advisory role, then was named the Mariners’ new GM last week.
The Angels lost to the Rangers in Sunday’s season finale, which eliminated them from contention for the second AL Wild Card spot. They finished 85-77. Most of their regulars are under contract for the 2016 season, but Eppler will have to decide whether to tender contracts to seven arbitration-eligible players while filling in the rest of the roster.