Pittsburgh Pirates Win and Clinch for the Nationals

Paul Francis SullivanChief Writer IOctober 2, 2012

PITTSBURGH, PA - OCTOBER 01:  Jeff Locke #49 of the Pittsburgh Pirates pitches against the Atlanta Braves during the game on October 1, 2012 at PNC Park in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

The Pittsburgh Pirates were hoping they would be participating in a clinching game during the last week of the season. 

Instead, a disastrous September dropped them not only out of the playoff chase, but to their 20th straight losing season.

But they found their winning ways long enough to defeat the Atlanta Braves, 2-1, and eliminate their nemesis from the NL East division race. 

The Pirates' victory clinched the National League East for the Washington Nationals, who will be the first team since the Washington Senators to represent the nation's capital in the playoffs. 

Washington and their fans can thank former Braves farm hand Jeff Locke, who pitched six solid innings and let up only two hits for his first ever major league win.

They can also thank Starling Marte, whose home run and triple made the difference in the score, and rookie reliever Jared Hughes, who locked down the save.

The Nationals franchise has their first division title from a complete season. Their only other postseason appearance was in the strike-shortened 1981 campaign for the Montreal Expos.

There was a celebration in the dugout after the win in Pittsburgh, albeit not the jubilation of a clinching party.

The Pirates will have their highest win total of the 21st century in 2012, and may have taken steps toward a first-place finish.

Either way, they won a clincher in 2012. Just not their own.