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Pirates win, move one game ahead of Reds

| Tuesday, Sept. 24, 2013, 11:33 p.m.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates starter Gerrit Cole delivers in the first inning against the Cubs on Tuesday, Sept. 24, 2013, at Wrigley Field in Chicago.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates pitcher Gerrit Cole drives in two runs with a single in the second inning against the Cubs on Tuesday, Sept. 24, 2013, at Wrigley Field in Chicago.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates second baseman Josh Harrison turns a double play over the Cubs' Donnie Murphy during the second inning Tuesday, Sept. 24, 2013, at Wrigley Field in Chicago.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates second baseman Josh Harrison runs down the Cubs' Nate Schierholtz during the second inning Tuesday, Sept. 24, 2013, at Wrigley Field in Chicago.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates second baseman Josh Harrison tags out the Cubs' Nate Schierholtz during the second inning Tuesday, Sept. 24, 2013, at Wrigley Field in Chicago.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
The Pirates' Gaby Sanchez and Pedro Alvarez score on a single by pitcher Gerrit Cole during the second inning against the Cubs on Tuesday, Sept. 24, 2013, at Wrigley Field in Chicago.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates second baseman Josh Harrison runs down a fly ball in right field during the first inning against the Cubs on Tuesday, Sept. 24, 2013, at Wrigley Field in Chicago.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates pitcher Gerrit Cole points to the dugout next to first base coach Rick Sofield after driving in two runs with a single during the second inning against the Cubs Tuesday, Sept. 24, 2013, at Wrigley Field in Chicago.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates pitcher Gerrit Cole gives the 'Zoltan' sign to the dugout after driving in two runs with a single during the second inning against the Cubs on Tuesday, Sept. 24, 2013, at Wrigley Field in Chicago.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen drives in a run with a hit during the eighth inning against the Cubs on Tuesday, Sept. 24, 2013, at Wrigley Field in Chicago.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates pitcher Gerrit Cole walks from the field after getting out of a jam during the sixth inning against the Cubs on Tuesday, Sept. 24, 2013, at Wrigley Field in Chicago.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates left fielder Starling Marte gets into second base next to the Cubs' Logan Watkins after driving in a run during the eighth inning on Tuesday, Sept. 24, 2013, at Wrigley Field in Chicago.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates third baseman Pedro Alvarez watches his double during the second inning against the Cubs on Tuesday, Sept. 24, 2013, at Wrigley Field in Chicago.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates shortstop Jordy Mercer hits a home run during the third inning against the Cubs on Tuesday, Sept. 24, 2013, at Wrigley Field in Chicago.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen greets Marlon Byrd as he scores during the fifth inning against the Cubs on Tuesday, Sept. 24, 2013, at Wrigley Field in Chicago.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
The Wrigley Field scoreboard shows the Pirates a game ahead of the Reds, but still two games back of the Cardinals after an 8-2 victory over the Cubs on Tuesday, Sept. 24, 2013 in Chicago.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates pitcher Gerrit Cole delivers to the plate during the first inning Tuesday, Sept. 24, 2013, at Wrigley Field in Chicago.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates second baseman Josh Harrison turns a double play on the Cubs' Donnie Murphy during the second inning Tuesday, Sept. 24, 2013, at Wrigley Field in Chicago.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates pitcher Jeanmar Gomez shags fly balls in front of the ivy wall at Wrigley Field during batting practice Tuesday, Sept. 24, 2013, before a game against the Cubs.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Third baseman Pedro Alvarez leaves the field to the cheers of Pirates fans after defeating the CubsTuesday, Sept. 24, 2013, at Wrigley Field in Chicago.

CHICAGO — After sitting out the postseason for 20 years, the Pirates are not content to accept merely a wild-card spot.

“Our goal hasn't changed,” manager Clint Hurdle said Tuesday. “It's to win the division.”

That was the same message Andrew McCutchen delivered about 18 hours earlier, when the Pirates clinched their first playoff berth since 1992. McCutchen told teammates, “We'll party tonight, then we'll get ready to play tomorrow.”

Tuesday, the Pirates tugged on their jerseys in a clubhouse that still reeked of champagne. Then they went out and poured it on — with hits and runs, not sparkling wine — to crush the Chicago Cubs, 8-2.

The Pirates pounded out 12 hits, six of them for extra bases. Jordy Mercer hit a solo home run. Pedro Alvarez collected three RBI with a pair of doubles.

“It's another day at the ballpark,” McCutchen said. “We're here, ready to win. If anything, people should be a little more relaxed now. The more relaxed you are when you're playing, the easier it is to play at a high level.”

The Pirates trail the first-place Cardinals by two games in the NL Central. The Reds, who also have secured a playoff bid, are one game behind the Pirates. All three teams have four games left to play.

“(Monday) was a big day, but we know we've still got a lot of work ahead of us,” second baseman Neil Walker said. “So, we're very focused. We know what's at stake and what's still possible.”

Right-hander Gerrit Cole worked six innings and won his fourth consecutive start. Cole (10-7) is the first Pirates rookie to notch double-digit wins since Josh Fogg went 12-12 in 2002.

Cole had to work for it, though. He gave up seven hits — all singles — and worked through a tough, 34-pitch sixth inning.

“It was kind of a weird night, all night,” Cole said. “The pace of the game was slow. I felt like I had different stuff every inning. I lost my feel for the breaking ball for a couple innings. When I got it back, I lost the feel for the fastball.”

Trying to keep warm between innings — the temperature at Wrigley Field dipped into the 50s — Cole ran sprints in the tunnel leading from the dugout to the clubhouse.

“It was definitely a new challenge, with the cold weather and those long innings,” Cole said. “It was great to be able to learn from that.”

Cole gave up three straight singles to begin the third, but a running blunder by Nate Schierholtz and a double play got him out of trouble.

In the sixth, the Cubs scored a run and had the bases loaded with none out after a fielding error by shortstop Mercer. Cole struck out Dioner Navarro and pinch-hitter Luis Valbuena. Donnie Murphy hit a towering shot, but right fielder Marlon Byrd caught it on the warning track.

“He was backed up into a little bit of a corner,” manager Clint Hurdle said. “He had to do some yard work. His first-pitch strikes were good, but his putaway pitches weren't as good as they've been in the past.”

Rob Biertempfel is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at rbiertempfel@tribweb.com or via Twitter @BiertempfelTrib.

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