Jordy Mercer and Josh Harrison put arms around each other as they walked off the field after Pittsburgh’s season-ending victory, enjoying perhaps their final moment together on a Pirates team they helped resurrect.
Pablo Reyes scored on Jackson Stephens’ wild pitch in the top of the 10th inning Sunday, rallying the Pirates to a 6-5 victory over the Cincinnati Reds that sent both teams into the offseason with notable changes ahead.
Mercer and Harrison helped turned the Pirates into winners, but it’s unlikely the shortstop and second baseman will be in the middle of Pittsburgh’s infield next season. Mercer is a free agent and Harrison’s contract includes a pricey $10.5 million club option for next year.
“Surreal,” Mercer said of their final moments on the field together. “We’ve kind of ridden the wave. It’s been me and him the whole time.”
Starling Marte and Josh Bell homered for the Pirates, who finished 82-79 — their most wins since they last made the playoffs in 2015. They head into next season with a solid rotation and bullpen, their best hopes for getting back into contention in the NL Central.
Marte’s homer was his 20th, making him the third player in team history with at least 20 homers and 30 steals in the same season.
This is how you forge a comeback…BACK-TO-BACK JACKS! ??#LetsGoBucs pic.twitter.com/OrTYue9Je0
Reyes doubled in the 10th off Stephens (2-3), advanced on an error and scored on the wild pitch. Michael Feliz (1-2) pitched the ninth, and Felipe Vazquez got his 37th save in 42 chances.
Clint Hurdle got his 1,200th career win as a major league manager. Bruce Bochy, Buck Showalter and Terry Francona are the other active managers with that many. Mike Scioscia was on that list as well, but he stepped down as Angels manager Sunday. Hurdle joked that he was the “outlier” in the group.
“It’s humbling, and you leave it there and you move on,” Hurdle said. “The four names — Scioscia, Bochy, Francona and Showalter. Again, it would be one of those captions: What’s wrong with this picture?”
The Reds finished 67-95, their fourth straight season with at least 90 losses — the second-worst stretch in franchise history. Their first item in the offseason is choosing a next manager.
Bryan Price was fired after a 3-15 start, and the Reds went 64-80 under interim manager Jim Riggleman. He’ll be interviewed Monday, and the Reds plan to pick a manager by the end of October. Hall of Fame shortstop Barry Larkin has told the team he isn’t interested at this time.
“If I continue to do it, it’s best-case scenario,” Riggleman said. “If I don’t, I’ll respect whatever decision the Reds come up with. I’ve been in the organization now seven years. I’m extremely familiar with the player development system, our current major league roster and our coaches. I love to manage.”
The Reds were one of a record eight major league teams to finish with at least 95 losses this year. There were seven in 2002.
OHIO RIVER DOMINATION
The Pirates won eight of their last nine games against the Reds and took the season series 14-5.
Riggleman gave several regulars a curtain call . First baseman Joey Votto and center fielder Billy Hamilton took their positions to start the fourth inning and were subbed out, removing their jerseys and handing them to fans on the way to the dugout. Third baseman Eugenio Suarez got a curtain call in the fifth and tossed his cap to a fan.
Billy Hamilton and Joey Votto make their way off the field for the final time in 2018 #RedsCountry pic.twitter.com/askZCBO6Ez
DWINDLING CROWDS AT GABP
The Reds drew 1,629,356 at Great American Ball Park, their smallest home attendance since 1984 when they were at Riverfront Stadium. Attendance has slid significantly each of the last three seasons as the team languished in rebuilding mode.
“Oh, it’s definitely noticeable,” catcher Tucker Barnhart said. “It’s pretty hard to not notice it when you can hear the light towers buzzing. It just means we have to play better. If you play better, more people will come.”
The Ohio River rivals will reunite at Great American to open next season, playing at 4:10 p.m. on Thursday, March 28.
Source: The Associated Press