The Pittsburgh Pirates are already in the 2014 playoffs. The Kansas City Royals just about are, too. But both teams still have plenty to play for coming down the final stretch of the regular season.
Pittsburgh entered Thursday just a game and a half back of the St. Louis Cardinals in the NL Central - a coveted spot that rewards the winner with an automatic place in the NLDS. The loser of the two teams will have to play the San Francisco Giants in the Wildcard, which is the spot the Bucs currently occupy.
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The Royals also entered the day a game back in the division, but are also dueling with the Oakland A's for home field advantage in the play-in game. And with the A's falling again on Thursday - along with the Cardinals losing to the Cubs - neither the Royals nor the Pirates could take advantage with a win.
Kansas City didn't start the game like it would have liked at Progressive Field in Cleveland. After getting the first two outs, Jason Vargas gave up a seemingly harmless single to Michael Brantley. Carlos Santana walked to set the stage for a Yan Gomes three-run blast to right center. The home run put the Royals into the type of hole that they aren't proficient at digging out of.
But KC did get back in the game - and actually into the lead - before the Tribe struck back. A three-run fifth made it 4-3 Royals, but the Indians came right back with two in the bottom half. Cleveland added one more in the following inning and held on for a 6-4 win. The usually reliable Royals' bullpen gave up the final two runs and got hit with the loss. And although Detroit did win, the loss on the same night Oakland lost insured that the two sides remained tied for the lead in the AL Wildcard.
The Pirates didn't relinquish any leads on Thursday night. Instead, Pittsburgh just soundly lost to Julio Teheran and the Atlanta Braves.
Not Teheran's fault
Despite his great numbers, Teheran entered his final start looking to push his record over .500 where it sat at 13-13. A high pitch count kept him from going deep into the game, but he did escape five innings after giving up two runs, and more importantly, working a lead for his team.
Teheran worked for Atlanta's lead both on the mound and with the bat. His third inning single with the bases loaded made it 4-0. Justin Upton added a two-run home run in the fourth before Teheran surrendered his only runs of the outing when Andrew McCutchen hit his 25th home run of the season in the fifth to cut the lead to 6-2.
That would be it for the Pirates offense on the night. Craig Kimbrel came on to get two outs with the bases loaded in the ninth for his 45th save.
Kimbrel struck out the two batters he faced to close the door on Pittsburgh. Instead of getting within a single win of St. Louis in the division, Pittsburgh remains 1.5 games out of the lead.