Phillies back into a playoff spot
They lose but are guaranteed no worse than the National League wild-card slot.
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.
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.
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.
CLUTCH: Matt Cain is greeted by Buster Posey after going the distance to beat Colorado.