ATLANTA — Gerrit Cole retired the final 17 hitters he faced, and the surging Pittsburgh Pirates clinched a spot in the playoffs with a 3-2 win over the free-falling Atlanta Braves on Tuesday night.
The Pirates' win combined with Milwaukee's loss to Cincinnati assured Pittsburgh of no worse than an NL wild card. The Pirates wrapped up their berth exactly one year after clinching a place in the 2013 playoffs.
They reacted to the final out on Tuesday with little emotion. The Pirates exchanged high-fives in a line on the field before sharing hugs in front of their dugout.
Starling Marte gave Pittsburgh the lead with a sixth-inning double. The Pirates, who are still chasing St. Louis for the NL Central title, have won 11 of 13.
Cole (11-5) trailed 2-0 after two innings but didn't allow another runner through seven innings. That allowed the Pirates to rally against Alex Wood (11-11).
Travis Snider's 12th homer tied the game in the fifth, and Andrew McCutchen doubled and scored on Marte's double in the sixth for a 3-2 Pittsburgh lead.
Cole allowed two runs and four hits with eight strikeouts.
Jared Hughes pitched a scoreless eighth. Left-hander Tony Watson gave up a one-out single to Phil Gosselin in the ninth, but he got Freddie Freeman to hit into a game-ending double play to earn his second save.
The Braves, who fired general manager Frank Wren on Monday, are 4-16 in September. Atlanta (76-81) has lost five straight to fall five games under .500 for the first time since May 9, 2010.
The Braves scored a first-inning run for the first time since Aug. 27. Freeman's double to the right-field wall drove in Gosselin. Freeman was thrown out trying to advance to third base.
The run ended a streak of 23 scoreless innings by Pirates starting pitchers.
Atlanta loaded the bases with no outs in the second but managed only one run when Andrelton Simmons grounded into a double play. Jason Heyward, who led off the inning with a walk, scored from third.
The Pirates added an unearned run in the fourth. McCutchen scored from third on catcher Christian Bethancourt's throwing error to second on Marte's stolen base.
Simmons added to his already lengthy list of defensive highlights at shortstop in the third inning. He made a leaping grab of Josh Harrison's line drive before landing hard on his chest. He also banged his nose and face to the ground, but held onto the ball as Wood expressed astonishment on the mound.
Pirates: RHP Charlie Morton has been shut down. He hasn't pitched since he felt discomfort in his groin and midsection late in his five innings of work in a victory over Boston on Sept. 16.
Braves: LHP Mike Minor has left shoulder inflammation and has been shut down for the remainder of the season. RHP David Hale will take Minor's spot in the rotation on Thursday against the Pirates.
Pirates: LHP Jeff Locke (7-5) is scheduled to face the Braves for the first time this season on Wednesday night. Locke received two no-decisions against Atlanta last season.
Braves: RHP Julio Teheran (13-13) will try to match his career high with his 14th win. Teheran was 14-8 for Atlanta in 2013.