Rays, Cardinals Win Wild-Card Spots on Last Day of Regular Play

The Tampa Bay Rays and St. Louis Cardinals won on the final day of the regular season to earn Major League Baseball’s wild-card playoff spots.

Evan Longoria’s home run, his second of the game and 31st this season, capped the Rays’ comeback from a 7-0 eighth-inning deficit as they beat the New York Yankees 8-7 in 12 innings. Three minutes earlier, the Boston Red Sox had surrendered two runs to the Baltimore Orioles with two outs in the ninth to lose 4-3 and miss out on the postseason for the second straight year.

“When I hit the ball I knew it was going to be fair,” Longoria said in a televised interview. “We were out here for the better part of five hours, and then everything happened in the final seconds.”

In the National League, the Cardinals defeated the Houston Astros 8-0 and then celebrated more than an hour later when they secured a postseason place as the Atlanta Braves lost 4-3 in 13 innings to the Philadelphia Phillies, who set a franchise record with their 102nd victory of the season.

The Cardinals, who trailed Atlanta by 10 1/2 games on Aug. 25, won 23 of their last 32 games. The Braves ended the season with five straight losses.

In missing out on the playoffs, the Red Sox set a major league record by giving up a nine-game lead over the Rays during the last month of the season, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. The biggest lead previously relinquished in September was by the 1995 Angels, who were overtaken by the Seattle Mariners after leading them by 7 1/2 games through August.

Boston’s seven wins in 27 games this month was its worst performance since it finished 1952 with the same record in September.

‘Worst Collapses’

“We’ll go down in history as one of the worst collapses,” left fielder Carl Crawford told reporters. “It definitely doesn’t feel good to be part of that.”

The scale of Boston’s collapse eclipsed a similar demise for the Braves, who led St. Louis by 8 1/2 games on Aug. 31 before winning nine of 27 games this month.

At Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Florida, the Rays fell behind 5-0 in the second inning when Mark Teixeira hit a grand slam. Teixeira added a solo home run in the fourth and Andruw Jones made it 7-0 for the Yankees with a solo shot in the fifth.

It stayed that way until the eighth inning, when the Rays scored six runs, including a three-run homer by Longoria. Pinch-hitter Dan Johnson tied it with a two-out solo home run in the ninth.

Longoria ended the game and sent the Rays into the playoffs in the 12th with his shot to left field.

AL Matchups

Tampa Bay will begin the best-of-five AL Division Series at the Texas Rangers, while the Yankees host the Detroit Tigers in Game 1. Both series start tomorrow.

At Camden Yards in Baltimore, the Red Sox gave up a 3-2 lead in the final inning. Nolan Reimold hit a run-scoring ground-rule double to tie the game and then scored on Robert Andino’s two-out single for the win.

“I’d been frustrated all night,” said Andino. “We got good pitches and didn’t do nothing with them.”

Dustin Pedroia had a run-scoring single in the third to give the Red Sox a 1-0 lead and then hit his 21st home run of the season to make it 3-2 in the fifth.

At Minute Maid Park in Houston, Chris Carpenter struck out 11 and gave up two hits in his 15th career shutout for the Cardinals, who jumped out to a 5-0 first-inning lead.

‘Nothing to Lose’

“We had nothing to lose,” Carpenter (11-9) told reporters. “We were already out of it. People were telling us we were done. We decided to go out and play and not embarrass ourselves and do what we can. We played ourselves back into it.”

The Cardinals will begin the postseason on Oct. 1 at Philadelphia, while the Arizona Diamondbacks travel to Milwaukee.

At Turner Field in Atlanta, Hunter Pence hit a run-scoring infield single in the 13th inning to give the Phillies the win and knock the Braves out of the postseason.

“This is tough,” Braves catcher Brian McCann said. “This is one of the worst feelings I’ve ever had coming off a baseball field.”

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