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Bell keys four-run eighth as Marlins beat Pirates to close on playoff spot

Garrett Hampson Nick Fortes Miami Marlins Garrett Hampson Nick Fortes - The Canadian Press
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PITTSBURGH (AP) — The Miami Marlins arrived in Pittsburgh bleary-eyed. There's an increasingly good chance they'll leave it a playoff team.

Josh Bell's two-run double keyed a four-run, eighth-inning rally and the surprising Marlins moved closer to a postseason berth with a 4-3 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates on Friday night.

“I don't even know what to say,” first-year manager Skip Schumaker explained. “Those games happen, it feels like every other day. And it's just fun to watch.”

Exhausting too.

Miami's magic number to earn the third and final wild-card spot in the National League fell to one when it surged past the Pirates and the Chicago Cubs fell in Milwaukee in 10 innings.

Heady territory for a club that hasn't reached the playoffs in a 162-game season since beating the New York Yankees in the 2003 World Series, when most of the current roster was in elementary school or younger.

Two decades of losing and irrelevance have followed. That may be changing under the ever-optimistic Schumaker, who had made a point to his club not to let fatigue serve as an excuse.

Not an easy task considering the Marlins didn't get into Pittsburgh until near dawn on Friday morning following a long night in New York in which their game against the Mets was delayed for more than three hours with two outs in the top of the ninth before finally being suspended with Miami up 2-1.

The Marlins would have to head back to Citi Field on Monday to finish the game if it means anything in the standings.

Thanks to another dash of late-inning brilliance, it might not.

Miami had just one runner reach third base over the first seven innings before jumping on Selby when he came on for Ryan Borucki with one out in the eighth.

Garrett Sampson got the Marlins going with a single. Luis Arraez followed with a pinch-single that raised his batting average to a major league-best .354. Selby loaded the bases with a walk to Jorge Soler and Bell — who spent his first four seasons with the Pirates from 2017-20 and was acquired by Miami at the trade deadline in a swap with Cleveland — delivered a double off the right-field wall to bring the Marlins within one.

“I think that it’s definitely been a blessing being able to get traded over here,” Bell said. “The last couple of months have been an absolute blast. A lot of come-from-behind wins.”

Jake Burger's RBI single tied the game and Jazz Chisholm's sacrifice fly off Carmen Mlodzinski put Miami in front. Huascar Brazoban (5-2) earned the victory with a scoreless seventh. Tanner Scott worked a perfect ninth for his 11th save in 15 chances a night after he hurriedly rejoined the club following the birth of his son Bo on Tuesday.

Miami improved to 33-13 in one-run games, a turnaround from 24-40 last year.

“Quite a few walk-offs, quite a few seventh, eighth, ninth-inning comebacks,” Bell said. “Our bullpen, we get them a one-run lead, the game’s over.”

Edward Cabrera whose strong performances this month have played an important role in Miami's rise, allowed three runs — two earned — six hits with three walks in 3 2/3 innings.

Five relievers held Pittsburgh scoreless over the final 5 1/3 innings, buying the offense enough time to wake up. Butler figures he needed at least three cups of coffee to combat the cobwebs after a draining few days in New York, where the Mets tried to play spoiler.

For years, it's usually been the other way around. Not in 2023. The Marlins have grown stronger as the season has wound down. Their 16-9 run in September has them assured of finishing over .500 for the first time since 2009.

More importantly, a chance to play beyond the first couple days of October looms. Not that Schumaker is getting ahead of himself. He won a World Series as a utility player with St. Louis in 2011 on a team that didn't win the NL Central until the last day of the regular season.

It's baseball. Crazy things happen every day. You're not in until you're in.

“We’re getting closer, but we’re not there yet,” Schumaker said. “So no one’s popping anything in there yet.”

Endy Rodriguez had two hits and an RBI for the Pirates. Liover Pegeuro and Conner Joe also had two hits for Pittsburgh but the bullpen faltered late as the Pirates lost for the ninth time when leading after seven innings.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Marlins: Arraez (ankle), who is almost assured of winning the NL batting title a year after he did the same in the American League while playing for Minnesota, fielded some grounders at second base and did some running before making just his third appearance since Sept. 18. Arraez was replaced by pinch runner Nick Fortes following his single in the eighth.

UP NEXT

RHP JT Chargois (1-0, 3.67) is likely to open Saturday night for the Marlins and RHP Quinn Priester (3-2, 7.86) for the Pirates.

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