Pirates seal rare play-off berth
Reds also earn wildcard spot after beating Mets
CHICAGO: The Pittsburgh Pirates are headed to the play-offs for the first time in 21 years, clinching at least a National League wildcard on Monday when they beat the Chicago Cubs 2-1 and the Washington Nationals lost to St Louis.
It will be Pittsburgh’s first trip to the post-season since Barry Bonds and Jim Leyland led the team to three straight NL East division titles from 1990-92. Bonds then left for San Francisco as a free agent, and the small-budget Pirates piled up 20 consecutive losing seasons — the longest streak in major professional sports.
Starling Marte hit a tie-breaking homer off Kevin Gregg (2-6) in the ninth inning before the Pirates threw out a runner at the plate for the final out.
Cincinnati also clinched at least a wildcard berth when they beat the New York Mets 3-2 in 10 innings. Choo ShinSoo drove in the winning run with a single off the wall.
The Pirates and Reds both trail firstplace St Louis by two games in the NL Central division with five to go.
The Cardinals, who are looking for their first NL Central title since 2009, beat the Nationals 4-3.
Carlos Beltran homered and Adam Wainwright earned his 18th win as St Louis eliminated Washington from playoff contention.
In the American League, James Loney hit a lead-off homer in the ninth as the Tampa Bay Rays completed a four-game sweep of Baltimore with a 5-4 win, putting a serious damper in the Orioles’ wildcard play-off hopes.
The win pushed the Rays a full game ahead of idle Cleveland for the top AL wildcard spot.
Baltimore fell five games behind the Indians with six games to go for both teams.
The Texas Rangers also pulled within a game of Cleveland for the second wildcard spot with a dominating 12-0 win over the Houston Astros.
Alex Rios hit for the cycle for the first time in his career and only the seventh time in Rangers history.
Rios finished off the cycle with a triple to right-centre field in the sixth inning, and later scored to put Texas up 11-0. He doubled in the first inning, had an infield single in the third and hit his 18th homer in the fourth.
The Kansas City Royals also stayed alive for the second AL wildcard spot with a 6-5 win over the Seattle Mariners.
Alex Gordon threw out a runner at the plate in extra innings and scored on Salvador Perez’s two-out double in the 12th to lift the Royals to victory. Kansas City moved within three games of Cleveland for the second wildcard with six remaining.
In other games, Milwaukee’s Marco Estrada pitched two-hit ball for seven innings and the Brewers belted three homers to beat the Atlanta Braves 5-0.
The NL East division champion Braves are a half-game ahead of St Louis for the best record in the National League.
The AL West division-champions Oakland Athletics, meanwhile, won their fifth straight game, defeating the Los Angeles Angels 10-5. Jed Lowrie hit a three-run homer and Brandon Moss added a two-run shot for the Athletics, who have won 11 of 13.
Miami’s Nathan Eovaldi pitched into the eighth inning to help the Marlins beat the Philadelphia Phillies 4-0.
San Diego’s Eric Stults allowed one run over 6 1-3 innings and Nick Hundley hit a three-run homer to lead the Padres over the Arizona Diamondbacks 4-1.
Minnesota’s Josmil Pinto hit an RBI single in the 11th inning and the Twins overcame 12 strike-outs by Justin Verlander to beat the Detroit Tigers 4-3 in 11 innings.
And rookie Marcus Semien hit his first major league homer to lead the Chicago White Sox to a 3-2 win over the Toronto Blue Jays.