Justin Morneau’s first RBI as a Pirate proves to be the difference in win over the Cubs

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It took 14 games and 50 trips to the plate, but first baseman Justin Morneau finally got his first RBI as a member of the Pirates this afternoon. His one-out, eighth-inning single to left drove in Andrew McCutchen to put the Buccos up 3-2. Morneau has yet to homer with his new club, and he even entered the afternoon slugging just .310 since switching jerseys.

The Pirates went up 2-0 early, scoring once in the first on a wild pitch, and once again in the fourth on a solo home run by Tony Sanchez. Starter Francisco Liriano held the Cubs scoreless through sixth and came out for the seventh, but quickly ran into trouble. Following Junior Lake’s lead-off single, Welington Castillo drove a two-run home run to left to tie the game. Fortunately for the Pirates, Morneau was able to play the role of hero. Mark Melancon pitched a perfect ninth to notch his 16th save of the season, lowering his ERA to 1.07 in the process.

The Cardinals also won, 12-2 over the Mariners, so the Pirates remain tied in first place atop the NL Central at 87-62.

Blue Jays clinch playoff berth with Orioles’ loss to Red Sox

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TORONTO — The Blue Jays clinched a postseason berth Thursday without taking the field.

Toronto was assured of an AL wild card berth when the Boston Red Sox beat the Baltimore Orioles 5-3.

If Toronto holds its current position as the first of the AL’s three wild cards, the Blue Jays would open a best-of-three wild-card series at Rogers Centre next week.

“These guys are excited to be in this position,” Blue Jays manager John Schneider said after Wednesday’s 8-3 loss to the New York Yankees. “You’ve got three really good pitchers lined up against a good Boston team, playing at home. So I think it’s more excitement more than it’s nerves or anything. I think the guys are going to come out and be ready to roll on Friday night.”

Toronto became the fourth AL team to clinch a playoff berth, joining division champions Houston, the Yankees and Cleveland. The Astros and Yankees have first-round byes.

The Blue Jays last went to the playoffs in 2020, when they were knocked out with two straight losses to Tampa Bay.

Eight of the 12 berths in the expanded postseason have been clinched: The Los Angeles Dodgers and St. Louis earned division titles, and Atlanta and the New York Mets are assured no worse the wild cards while still competing to win the NL East. The Dodgers have a first-round bye.