Phillies back into a play­off spot

They lose but are guar­an­teed no worse than the Na­tional League wild-card slot.

Los Angeles Times - - Sports - Kevin Bax­ter

The long-dis­tance race for a place in base­ball’s eight-team play­off tour­na­ment be­gan in spring train­ing. But it reaches the fin­ish line Sun­day and with only a week to play only two di­vi­sions have been de­cided — Min­nesota hav­ing won the Amer­i­can League Cen­tral and Texas the AL West.

Philadel­phia, which backed into at least a wild­card berth de­spite los­ing Sun­day, is the only Na­tional

League team guar­an­teed of ad­vanc­ing.

That leaves 10 teams bat­tling for the five post­sea­son in­vi­ta­tions still un­claimed. Here’s how those races stand en­ter­ing the home­stretch.

Na­tional League

The West seems to get a new leader ev­ery day. Sun­day it was San Fran­cisco, which rode a com­plete-game per­for­mance by Matt Cain to a 4-2 vic­tory over Colorado to re­claim first place from San Diego, a 12-2 loser to Cincin­nati.

Cain held the Rock­ies hit­less into the eighth in­ning to win his 13th game and push the Giants half a game in front of the Padres, who lead At­lanta by half a game in the wild-card race.

Nei­ther com­pe­ti­tion is likely to be de­cided un­til the sea­son’s fi­nal week­end, when San Diego vis­its San Fran­cisco. The Rock­ies also re­main in con­tention, but barely, trail­ing the Giants by 41⁄ games in

2 the West and San Diego by four games in the wild-card race

And speak­ing of the wild-card race, de­spite los­ing Sun­day, Philadel­phia, with 93 wins, clinched no worse than a wild-card berth. The Phillies, of course, would like to trade up for an East ti­tle, and since they lead sec­ond-place At­lanta by six games with six to play, the next Philadel­phia win or Braves loss will give the Phillies their fourth con­sec­u­tive di­vi­sion ti­tle.

The Reds face a sim­i­lar sce­nario in the Cen­tral. Cincin­nati’s win over San Diego on Sun­day dropped its magic num­ber to one, mean­ing it can clinch the di­vi­sion ti­tle on its day off Mon­day if sec­ond-place St. Louis loses to Pitts­burgh.

Amer­i­can League

Al­though Bos­ton is still math­e­mat­i­cally in the run­ning, in re­al­ity its ex­tra-in­ning loss to New York on Sun­day meant the league’s fi­nal two play­off berths will go to Tampa Bay and New York. Still to be de­ter­mined, how­ever, is which will go as the East cham­pion.

That’s no mi­nor dis­tinc­tion since the di­vi­sion cham­pion will get home-field ad­van­tage for the first round of the play­offs. Tampa Bay re­mains in first place de­spite los­ing to Seat­tle, 6-2, but the Yan­kees cut the mar­gin to half a game by beat­ing the Red Sox, 4-3, on Juan Mi­randa’s bases-loaded 10th-in­ning walk.

That left Bos­ton a loss or a Tampa Bay vic­tory away from elim­i­na­tion.

By­ron Hetzler

CLUTCH: Matt Cain is greeted by Buster Posey af­ter go­ing the dis­tance to beat Colorado.

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