The Pittsburgh Pirates clinched their first Major League Baseball playoff berth in 21 years, locking up at least a wild-card spot with a 2-1 win against the Chicago Cubs coupled with a loss by the Washington Nationals.
The Cincinnati Reds also secured a trip to the postseason with a 3-2, 10-inning win against the New York Mets last night.
While the Reds celebrated their third playoff berth in four years with little fanfare in Cincinnati, Pirates players sprayed each other with champagne in the visitors’ clubhouse in Chicago when the Nationals lost to the St. Louis Cardinals.
“We’re doing the celebrating here because we’ve earned it,” Pirates outfielder Andrew McCutchen told reporters last night. “But we’re not done. Tomorrow, it’s back at it.”
Pittsburgh took the lead last night when Starling Marte’s home run with two outs in the top of the ninth inning snapped a 1-1 tie. The Pirates then threw out a runner at home plate in the bottom of the inning to end the game.
The Pirates (90-67) last made the playoffs in 1992, when a team led by Barry Bonds lost in the National League Championship Series for a third straight year. Pittsburgh then went on a run of 20 consecutive losing seasons -- the longest in the four major North American professional sports -- before this year.
“At the beginning of the year, the only people who believed in the Pittsburgh Pirates were the Pittsburgh Pirates,” second baseman Neil Walker said. “We got ourselves an opportunity now, and that’s all we can ask for.”
The Reds are 90-67 as well after beating the Mets on Shin-Soo Choo’s run-scoring single off the wall in the bottom of the 10th inning last night. They’re also guaranteed at least a wild-card playoff berth. Wild cards are given to the two non division-winners in each league with the best records.
Pittsburgh and Cincinnati are two games behind the Cardinals (92-65) in the NL Central Division.
The Cardinals, Atlanta Braves and Los Angeles Dodgers previously had locked up the NL’s other three playoff spots.
The Boston Red Sox and Oakland Athletics have won division titles in the American League.
The Tampa Bay Rays lead the AL’s wild-card race with an 87-69 record after beating the Baltimore Orioles 5-4 yesterday for their fourth straight win. James Loney snapped a 4-4 tie with a solo homer to lead off the bottom of the ninth inning.
The Orioles (81-75) fell five games behind the idle Cleveland Indians for the second AL wild-card berth with six regular-season games to play for both teams.
The Texas Rangers (85-71) are one game behind the Indians after yesterday’s 12-0 rout of the Houston Astros. The Kansas City Royals (83-73) are three games back after beating the Seattle Mariners 6-5 in 12 innings.
The New York Yankees, who were off yesterday, are four games behind the Indians in the wild-card race and in danger of missing the playoffs for the second time in the past 19 years. The Yankees (82-74) host the Rays tonight in the start of a three-game series.