The Pittsburgh Pirates will host a playoff game for the first time since 1992 after hitting six home runs yesterday en route to an 8-3 win over the Cincinnati Reds.
In a game that ended in heavy rain yesterday at the Ballpark in Arlington, the Rangers beat the Los Angeles Angels 7-4 for their sixth-straight win, raising the club’s record to 90-71.
About an hour later in Toronto, the Blue Jays handed the Rays a 7-2 defeat, leaving Tampa, also 90-71, tied with Texas with one regular-season game to go.
The Indians then overcame a rain delay and the Minnesota Twins, 5-1, for their ninth-straight victory, putting Cleveland at 91-70, a game ahead of Texas and Tampa.
With wild-card playoff berths given to the top two non-division winning teams in each league, the Indians will take the top spot with a win this afternoon at Minnesota. A loss by Cleveland and wins by Tampa and Texas would leave all three teams tied, setting up a scenario in which the Indians would host the Rays on Monday to determine the top wild-card spot and the loser would play at Texas on Tuesday for the second one.
Should Cleveland win today and Tampa and Texas end their seasons tied, the Rays would visit the Rangers on Monday to determine the second wild-card spot.
Texas starter Derek Holland pitched 4 2/3 innings yesterday, allowing four earned runs on eight hits while striking out four Angels without a walk. Joakim Soria earned the win for the Rangers with 1 1/3 innings of relief work and Joe Nathan notched his 43rd save.
Garrett Richards (7-8) took the loss for the Angels (78-83), giving up six runs, including three earned, in 4 1/3 innings.
Rays right-hander Chris Archer was pulled during the third inning at the Rogers Centre in Toronto, having allowed five hits and an earned run. Tampa’s relief staff gave up six more runs in their loss to the Blue Jays (74-87).
Ryan Goins and Kevin Pillar each hit homers for Toronto, while Blue Jays starter J.A. Happ (5-7) pitched into the eighth inning, allowing one run on five hits.
Following a two-hour, 41-minute rain delay at Target Field in Minneapolis, Scot Kazmir struck out 11 Twins (66-95) in six innings while allowing one run as the Indians moved within one win of clinching the top American League wild-card spot.
At the Great American Ballpark in Cincinnati, Pittsburgh native Neil Walker had the first two-home run game of his career as the Pirates beat the Reds to lock up a home wild-card playoff game. The 28-year-old Walker was 7 when the Pirates last played in the postseason, falling to the Atlanta Braves in the 1992 National League Championship Series.
“It’s a long-awaited time for Pirates fans,” Walker, who hit his 15th and 16th homers, said in a televised interview on the MLB Network. “Fortunately today I got a couple on the barrel and was able to run them out, and I wasn’t alone.”
Walker hit homers in the third and fifth innings, while Andrew McCutchen, Pedro Alvarez and Marlon Byrd each added home runs against Reds starter Bronson Arroyo. Pinch-hitter Andrew Lambo added his first career homer off reliever Andrew Ondrusek.
Arroyo, who lasted 4 2/3 innings, took the loss, falling to 14-12. Charlie Morton went 4 1/3 innings for the Pirates, giving up three earned runs on five hits while striking out three and walking five. Reliever Vin Mazzaro (8-2) pitched 2/3 of an inning and got the win.
The Reds also lost Brandon Phillips after the second baseman hit a fifth-inning pitch off his shin. Phillips singled before being removed from the game. X-rays were negative though Phillips said after the game that he couldn’t walk on the leg, according to MLB Network.
That leaves Phillips’ status uncertain for Tuesday’s one-game wild-card playoff between the NL’s top two non-division winners, when the Reds (90-71) take on the Pirates (93-68) at PNC Park in Pittsburgh.
“We were confident whether we were playing here or playing at home, but obviously it’s much better to know that you’re going to have that home crowd behind you,” Walker said.
Adam Wainwright raised his record 19-9 in the St. Louis Cardinals’ 6-2 win over the Chicago Cubs, keeping alive the Cardinals’ hopes of earning home-field advantage throughout the NL playoffs. The Cardinals are 96-65, a game ahead of the Atlanta Braves (95-66), who fell 5-4 to the Philadelphia Phillies. Atlanta won its season series against St. Louis, giving the Braves the tiebreaker for home-field advantage if the teams finish the season with the same record.
With the AL having won July’s All-Star Game to gain home field in the World Series, the Boston Red Sox yesterday wrapped up the advantage throughout their playoff run when the Oakland Athletics lost 7-5 at the Seattle Mariners. The defeat dropped Oakland to 95-66, while Boston (97-64) went on to a 6-5 loss to the Orioles in Baltimore.
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