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Pirates clinch playoff spot for 2nd year in a row

Pittsburgh overcame a slow start to coast into the postseason on the strength of a vastly underrated offense and solid pitching staff.

Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Pirates clinched their second consecutive postseason berth with their 3-2 win over the Atlanta Braves and the Milwaukee Brewers' 3-1 loss to the Cincinnati Reds.

Gerrit Cole struck out eight batters and allowed only two runs in seven innings of work. He got just enough help from his offense, which was led by MVP candidate Andrew McCutchen. The 27-year-old outfielder, who entered Tuesday hitting .310/.404/.537, went 2-for-2 with a pair of walks and a double. Outfielder Travis Snider added a solo home run, his 12th.

The Pirates, who went 21 seasons without finishing with a winning record, won 94 games last year and could reach the 90-victory plateau again in 2014. After being eliminated by the St. Louis Cardinals in the NLDS last October, the Bucs began this season on a rather weak note. Pittsburgh fell to 18-26 with a loss to the Baltimore Orioles on May 21, but has compiled a 68-45 record since.

The Bucs have a strong offense (107 OPS+) and solid pitching staff (103 ERA+) to thank for their success, and the team could pose a much larger threat in the postseason than they did a year ago, when their offense was barely league average.