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Wren dismissed by Braves; Hart named interim GM

Wren dismissed by Braves; Hart named interim GM

ATLANTA -- Nearing the end of their most disappointing season in more than two decades, the Braves have decided to begin altering the organization's culture by relieving general manager Frank Wren of his duties. Wren learned of his termination on Monday morning.

John Hart, former GM of the Indians and Rangers who is one of Braves president John Schuerholz's closest friends, was named interim GM, but he has made it known that he enjoys his work as a MLB Network analyst too much to take on a full-time position with the club.

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Still, he will play a key role in the transition period to a new GM. The Braves have formed a three-person search and transition team that will include Schuerholz, Hart and Hall of Famer and former manager Bobby Cox.

The Braves have scheduled a 12:30 p.m. ET news conference, which can be seen live on MLB.com and braves.com.

As interim GM, Hart also will serve as a mentor and advisor to assistant GM John Coppolella, who will now assume a more significant role within the Braves front office. Coppolella, who was hired by Schuerholz in 2006, is considered one of baseball's best young minds and a future GM candidate.

Wren is the first Braves GM to be dismissed since John Mullen in 1990. While the struggles endured by this year's team did not help Wren's case, there had been reason to wonder about his job security since November, when Hart was hired by the Braves to serve as a special advisor to the baseball operations department.

Despite the fact that the Braves have experienced late-season collapses in two of Fredi Gonzalez's four seasons as their manager, Gonzalez is seemingly safe for now. But there is obviously a chance that his status could be influenced by the decision the club makes in regard to hiring a new GM.

Wren accepted the unenviable responsibility of replacing Schuerholz as the Braves' GM after the 2007 season. He guided the club through a couple of rebuilding years and then constructed the roster that took Bobby Cox back to the playoffs in 2010, his final season as manager.

The Yankees and Cardinals stand as the only clubs that have won more games than the Braves since the start of the 2009 season. But as the past few years have progressed, players, coaches, scouts and front-office employees have complained about the lack of harmony with the front office. That certainly caught the attention of Schuerholz, who established himself as a potential Hall of Famer as Atlanta's GM from 1991-2007, during which time the Braves won 14 consecutive division titles, five National League pennants and a World Series.

Schuerholz had a strong working relationship with Cox during his long tenure as GM. There was a disconnect between Wren and Cox when they were the GM/manager duo, and Cox has been relatively quiet within the organization since his retirement.

While Wren had some success with trades, his free-agent signings tarnished his tenure with the Braves. When he needed to reconstruct the starting rotation before the 2009 season, he signed veteran Derek Lowe to a four-year, $60 million contract and orchestrated both the scouting and signing of Japanese right-hander Kenshin Kawakami, who signed a three-year, $23 million deal and proceeded to go 8-22 with a 4.32 ERA over 50 appearances, 41 of them starts.

Kawakami spent the final year of his deal with Double-A Mississippi. Lowe was traded to the Indians at the conclusion of the 2011 season, and the Braves ended up eating $10 million of the remaining $15 million owed to him.

Earlier this season, the Braves released second baseman Dan Uggla and consequently had to eat the $19 million still owed to him on his five-year, $62 million contract he signed after being acquired from the Marlins after the 2010 season. And the Braves are staring at the possibility of eventually having to do something similar with outfielder B.J. Upton, who has been a significant disappointment since signing a franchise-record five-year, $75.25 million deal before the 2013 season.

Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Donaldson's homer in 10th keeps A's in WC lead

Third baseman's two-run walk-off shot maintains half-game cushion

Donaldson's homer in 10th keeps A's in WC lead play video for Donaldson's homer in 10th keeps A's in WC lead

OAKLAND -- Throughout the A's recent stretch of bad baseball, manager Bob Melvin has spoken frequently about the importance of rediscovering the "good feeling" his club experienced almost daily during the first four months of the season. Over the last six weeks, that feeling has seemed impossible to come by -- but on Sunday, Josh Donaldson brought euphoria with one big swing.

Donaldson launched a walk-off, two-run homer in the 10th inning at O.co Coliseum -- a no-doubter off the siding in center field -- to give the A's a crucial 8-6 victory over the Phillies that kept them on top in the American League Wild Card race.

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It was the A's 10th walk-off win of the year -- but just their third since July 19 -- and it was Donaldson's third walk-off hit of the season. All three were homers.

"Donny loves the spotlight," said closer Sean Doolittle. "A number of times this year he's put the team on his back."

"Ever since I was a little kid, that's what you prepare for," Donaldson said, "whether it's basketball, trying to hit a game-winning shot; football, making the catch; baseball, getting the game-winning hit. Ever since I was a kid, that's just the moment I've always wanted to be in."

Sunday's seesaw affair wasn't the prettiest, but an A's team desperate for wins will certainly not complain. With seven regular-season contests remaining, Oakland leads Kansas City by a half-game for the top AL Wild Card spot, with the Mariners two games back.

"One thing that we've been talking about is that we're still in the driver's seat," Doolittle said, "and that we don't have to scoreboard watch. As long as we take care of business, we'll continue to be in the driver's seat."

The A's gave starter Scott Kazmir three leads in the rubber match, but all three quickly vanished. With Oakland up, 3-1, the Phillies scored twice in the third. With Oakland up, 4-3, the Phillies scored once in the fourth. And with Oakland up, 6-4, the Phillies scored twice in the sixth, knocking Kazmir from the game.

With the score tied, 6-6, in the ninth inning, Nick Punto hit a one-out triple off Justin De Fratus. But Geovany Soto and Eric Sogard struck out, sending the game to extras.

Doolittle returned for a second inning of work in the 10th, retiring the Phillies in order to set up the dramatic finish. Nate Freiman hit a one-out single off Miguel Gonzalez, Billy Burns came in to pinch-run, and Donaldson took care of the rest.

Kazmir's second straight rocky outing lasted 5 1/3 innings, with six runs allowed on 11 hits. The lefty has given up 10 runs over his past two starts, and over his last 10 his ERA is 6.67. His ERA for the season, which was 2.37 after 21 starts, is now 3.63.

"My body, everything feels great," he said. "It's just a matter of consistency, I'm not consistent out there. I can hit my spots, but a matter of doing it consistently, that's something I just haven't done."

Philadelphia starter A.J. Burnett struggled with his command from the outset, walking six and plunking a pair in 4 1/3 innings. While the A's were unable to blow the game open, they did touch him up for six earned runs to break out of a 15-inning scoreless drought.

In the fifth, Soto drove a tiebreaking two-run double to the right-field wall off Cesar Jimenez, and he finished with three RBIs, his most since July 30, 2013.

"He had a good game all the way around," said Melvin. "Made a great throw, blocked numerous balls in the dirt with guys on base or with two strikes, huge hit, walk. He's here for a reason."

After Donaldson's blast, the A's dugout erupted. There was celebratory pie and a Gatorade bath for the hero. Music blared in the clubhouse.

The A's, at least for the moment, were feeling good.

"A game like that can be real emotional," Melvin said. "Obviously a good feeling amongst the group right now. You always hope that will carry over."

Aaron Leibowitz is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Cards' October ticket booked; division crown goal

Cards' October ticket booked; division crown goal play video for Cards' October ticket booked; division crown goal

ST. LOUIS -- Though their sights are still set on a second straight division title, the Cardinals took the field for Sunday night's regular-season home finale knowing that their season will not end in a week.

Before diving into their preparations for a game against the Reds, players and staff gathered in the video room to watch the final outs of the game between the Brewers and Pirates at PNC Park. It was somewhat bittersweet for them to watch Pittsburgh wrap up a 1-0 win, since the Pirates are still chasing the Cardinals in the division. But with the Pirates' win, the Brewers were eliminated from the National League Central race, and the Cardinals were ensured of no worse than at least an NL Wild Card spot.

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The Cardinals briefly acknowledged the achievement, but quickly went back to work with their mind on more.

"It is nice to know that we will be playing past this coming Sunday," Daniel Descalso said. "Obviously, we would like to go ahead and clinch the division. That is the goal here. We acknowledge that a little bit, but at the same time, there's other work to be done."

"We do have a playoff spot, but that's not the one we want," Lance Lynn added. "Until we win the division, it's not a good feeling at all. That's the way we see it. That's our goal. That's what we're still going for."

The Cardinals, who can boast of being the only NL team to have advanced to the postseason in each of the last four seasons, lost to the Reds, 7-2, on Sunday and will therefore take a 2 1/2-game cushion over the Pirates heading into the final week. The Cardinals have six games remaining on their schedule; the Pirates will play seven. Both will spend the week on the road.

The Cardinals' magic number to clinch a division title is 5, making Wednesday the earliest possible day for a champagne celebration.

Though they left home (where they finished with a 51-30 record) after Sunday's game, the Cardinals have a favorable schedule for a strong finish. They will be playing a pair of clubs (the Cubs and D-backs) that entered Sunday a combined 48 games below .500. Pittsburgh heads to Atlanta for four games before finishing the regular season in Cincinnati.

"We set out to do something in our division, and we're in a good position to do that," manager Mike Matheny said. "We hold those cards in our own hand."

Also still in play is the opportunity to secure home-field advantage for the NL Division Series. While the Nationals, barring a freefall over the next week, are poised to lock down home-field advantage throughout the NL Championship Series by finishing with the NL's best record, the Cardinals trailed the current No. 2 seed, the Dodgers, by two games.

"Not that it's just whatever, but we have some bigger thoughts on our mind, and that is to hopefully go out there and win the division," Jason Motte said. "We have a goal, and we haven't reached that goal yet. We're going to keep playing and doing what we need to do to hopefully reach that goal."

Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, and follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Postseason Picture for Monday, Sept. 22

Postseason Picture for Monday, Sept. 22 play video for Postseason Picture for Monday, Sept. 22

Sunday's action in Major League Baseball made things a bit clearer with a week before the postseason officially arrives. Then again, there are still quite a few possibilities in play, not just for teams hoping to make the playoffs but for teams already in and now looking for home-field advantage in October. Those will all be worked out over the next seven days. On Sunday, we got a few answers as they played out in real time.

The first definitive conclusion we could come to after Sunday was that the St. Louis Cardinals have clinched a postseason berth. They didn't even have to win to do it, because they were in once the Pirates beat the Brewers. Also on Sunday, the Kansas City Royals made the American League Central more interesting by beating the Tigers and trimming Detroit's division lead to 1 1/2 games. The Royals remain in the second slot for the AL Wild Card race because the Oakland A's maintained the top slot by beating the Phillies on a walk-off homer by Josh Donaldson in the 10th inning.

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Elsewhere, the Pirates won and the Giants lost, which had them deadlocked in the top two slots for the NL Wild Card. The Dodgers got closer to an NL West title and ensuring home-field in a Division Series by winning in Chicago on Sunday, but the AL East champion Orioles lost a day of momentum in that department by dropping a game to Boston and the AL West-winning Angels slipped up in their hunt for home-field advantage throughout the playoffs with a loss to Texas.

IF THE POSTSEASON STARTED TODAY ...

American League

Wild Card: Royals at A's

Division Series: Wild Card at Angels | Tigers at Orioles

National League

Wild Card: Giants at Pirates

Division Series: Wild Card at Nationals | Cardinals at Dodgers

Postseason picture

On Sunday, the Cardinals learned they had qualified for the postseason by watching the Pirates win on TV. It was a foregone conclusion for a team that's built a somewhat comfortable 2 1/2-game lead over Pittsburgh in the NL Central, but St. Louis would like to seal up the division sooner than later. Still, the Cards could take a few moments, at least, to be proud of what they've accomplished so far.

"You can tell that it is a one-track mind right now," St. Louis manager Mike Matheny said. "It's, 'What do we have to do to win this division?' There will be a time, if things play out and we're able to go in as a Wild Card team, we will celebrate that, because there are a whole lot of teams that would like to be in this situation. But right now, we're also in a position to keep moving forward to try and win this division."

Neither the Tigers nor the Royals have yet qualified for the postseason because their division race is going down to the wire. On Sunday, Kansas City got a game back in the teams' last head-to-head meeting in the regular season, stayed firmly in the mix for the AL Wild Card when the Mariners lost to Houston, and proved that their remarkable season is hardly done.

"I think today's game showed that we're not going away," Royals manager Ned Yost said after Sunday's win. "They had that feeling this morning that they knew that this was going to be a big game. They had a lot of confidence in themselves when they hit the field."

In Oakland, the A's needed some confidence after a recent skid, and things were tight through nine innings, but in the bottom of the 10th, they got a major contribution and a dramatic moment from one of the offensive players they've been leaning on during their last two AL West championship seasons, Donaldson.

Across the bay, the Giants lost some ground to the Dodgers in the NL West standings but stayed right in the mix for the Wild Card. They're tied with Pittsburgh, but the Pirates would hold the home-field advantage in a Wild Card Game or tiebreaker because they beat the Giants in four of six games this season.

Either way, Pittsburgh has been playing as well as any team of late and took another big step toward October by beating Milwaukee on Sunday in its regular-season PNC Park bow. Now the Pirates venture away from Pittsburgh for their final week of hugely important games.

This week, the Angels and Nationals will try to keep their positions as the clubs with the best records in their leagues and ensure home-field advantage throughout their playoff runs. The rest of the contenders will try to win out and pull a surprise while the Wild Cards are sorted out in what will surely be a final-week frenzy.

TODAY'S KEY GAMES TO WATCH (all times ET)

Royals (Duffy, 8-11) at Indians (Carrasco, 8-5), 7:05 p.m. Preview

Before this game starts, the two clubs have to finish up their suspended game from Aug. 31, which Cleveland currently leads, 4-2, in the bottom of the 10th. The Royals will hand the ball to their hard-throwing left-hander, Danny Duffy, in hopes that he'll be able to contain the Indians' offense, but Cleveland starter Carlos Carrasco has been brilliant of late and the Royals will be on the road, so it's a tall order.

Mariners (Paxton, 6-3) at Blue Jays (Happ, 9-11), 7:07 p.m. Preview

The Mariners need as many wins as they can get right now, and their young left-hander, James Paxton, has been one of their best pitchers over the past few weeks.

White Sox (Bassitt, 0-1) at Tigers (Lobstein, 1-0), 7:08 p.m. Preview

Detroit will be looking to take advantage of playing at Comerica Park and will rely on Kyle Lobstein to push it one game closer to winning the AL Central.

Pirates (Liriano, 6-10) at Braves (Harang, 11-11), 7:10 p.m. Preview

The Pirates are closing in on a Wild Card berth, but they won't play another regular-season game at home. In other words, it's crunch time, beginning tonight in Atlanta.

Cardinals (Wainwright, 19-9) at Cubs (Wood, 8-12), 8:05 p.m. Preview

Adam Wainwright can win his 20th game of the year and get his team closer to a division title.

Angels (Wilson, 13-9) at Athletics (Samardzija, 6-12), 10:05 p.m. Preview

The A's might have recaptured some magic at home on Sunday with a walk-off win over Philadelphia. They'll be looking to tap into that mojo against the Angels.

Giants (Peavy, 7-13) at Dodgers (Haren, 13-11), 10:10 p.m. Preview

The Dodgers' magic number to clinch the NL West is only at three, so the Giants need to win beginning tonight to have any shot at pulling out a division title.

Watch the races on MLB.TV

MAGIC NUMBERS

To calculate a team's magic number, take the number of games it has remaining and add one. Then subtract the difference in the number of losses between that team and its closest pursuer.

AL East: Orioles clinched

AL Central: Tigers seven over Royals

AL West: Angels clinched

AL Wild Card 1: A's eight over Royals

AL Wild Card 2: Royals seven over Mariners

NL East: Nationals clinched

NL Central: Cardinals five over Pirates

NL West: Dodgers three over Giants

NL Wild Card 1: Pirates eight over Giants

NL Wild Card 2: Giants three over Brewers

Standings

TIEBREAKER SCENARIOS

A tiebreaker game will be played to determine a division winner, even if the tied clubs are assured of participating in the postseason. If a division championship tiebreaker is necessary, the head-to-head record between the clubs will determine home-field advantage. If the head-to-head record is tied, then division record will be the next tiebreaker.

If two clubs are tied for the two Wild Card berths, home-field advantage will be determined by the head-to-head record between the clubs. If the head-to-head record is tied, then division record will be the next tiebreaker.

Tiebreaker rules

Doug Miller is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @DougMillerMLB and read his MLBlog, Youneverknow. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Early offensive burst captures Royals' series finale

Aoki's decisive triple helps KC cut division deficit to 1 1/2 games

Early offensive burst captures Royals' series finale play video for Early offensive burst captures Royals' series finale

KANSAS CITY -- If Sunday's crucial 5-2 win over the Tigers in the series finale revealed anything, according to Royals manager Ned Yost, it was his team's refusal to slow down in the American League Central race.

"I think today's game showed that we're not going away," said Yost after Kansas City won the final regular-season game at Kauffman Stadium. "They had that feeling this morning that they knew that this was going to be a big game. They had a lot of confidence in themselves when they hit the field."

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The Royals dropped Friday's opener, 10-1, and Saturday's game, 3-2, but Sunday's win moved them back within 1 1/2 games of the Tigers with seven remaining, including the resumption of a suspended game they trail, 4-2, against Cleveland.

"Even before this game, we felt like we weren't going anywhere," said Alex Gordon, who snapped a 0-for-14 streak with an RBI double in the eighth.

Kansas City, which finished the season 42-39 at Kauffman Stadium, was led by Nori Aoki, just like it was during the entire 10-game home stand. Aoki ripped a game-winning two-run triple to break a 2-2 tie in the fourth inning. He batted .474 (18-for-38) in the series.

The Royals struck in the first inning when Billy Butler punched an RBI single to center, scoring Lorenzo Cain.

"That first hit that Billy got was huge for us to break the ice," Yost said.

Alcides Escobar tied the franchise's record for doubles in a season with an RBI two-bagger off the left-field wall in the second inning. Escobar's 33rd double put the Royals up, 2-0, and leveled him with Jose Offerman (1996).

Royals starter Jeremy Guthrie experienced a slight hiccup in the third, courtesy of Ian Kinsler, who halved the deficit with a solo shot. Detroit tied it one inning later when Mike Moustakas mishandled a throw by Alex Gordon, which allowed J.D. Martinez to scamper home from third after his leadoff single.

"I just dropped the ball. Unfortunately, that's something that can't happen," Moustakas said.

Through two innings, Tigers starter Rick Porcello allowed six hits and threw 54 pitches. Kansas City started the game 7-for-13 with a walk after one batter in the third, but only pushed across two runs. Porcello staved off rallies in the first three innings, but he couldn't escape the fourth-inning jam.

Moustakas, just a half inning removed him his error, evidently let the gaffe wash over him as he sparked a two-run fourth with a single.

"The thing that was so impressive was Moose wears those types of situations hard," Yost said. "He'll come in and slam his glove, he'll be really upset with himself. He came in that inning, laid his glove down and, I mean, he was locked in. Boom, base hit, set up a nice inning for us."

The Royals' two runs that frame came on Aoki's career-high fifth triple of the season. With Omar Infante and Moustakas aboard, Aoki chopped a grounder down the right-field line that evaded first baseman Victor Martinez. The ball leaked into the right-field corner, easily plating the two to give Kansas City a 4-2 lead.

That was all the insurance Guthrie and the bullpen would need.

Guthrie got through 5 1/3 innings, allowing two runs (one earned). He surrendered eight runs in each of his previous two outings against Detroit.

"Guthrie did a phenomenal job maneuvering through that lineup with the offensive firepower that they had," Yost said. "He did a great job of executing his pitches in, changing speeds down and away and the big key for Jeremy -- especially against a club like this, they hunt balls up and they do damage with it -- he did a great job keeping the ball down, changing speeds and keeping them off balance."

Kelvin Herrera replaced Guthrie in the sixth with a threat intact. The Tigers had a pair of runners on base and only one out, but Herrera took care of the next two hitters, then worked a pristine seventh.

"Big time job right there," Yost said.

Wade Davis and Greg Holland locked up the victory with scoreless eighth and ninth innings, respectively.

Kansas City moves on for a three-game set at Cleveland, which will begin with the completion of the suspended game from Aug. 31.

"We're still right in the middle of all this; we're a game and a half out and anything can happen," Yost said. "There's nobody in this room that knows what's going to happen -- nobody. So you go play them one at a time and it will play itself out."

Jackson Alexander is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Possible tiebreaking scenarios explained

Possible tiebreaking scenarios explained play video for Possible tiebreaking scenarios explained

The Orioles, Nationals and Angels all clinched with relative ease, but don't let those decided divisions deceive you into believing we're going to have seamless standings scenarios from here on out.

Truth is, things could get messy and mathematically complex. The Wild Card era has already produced seven Game 163 tiebreakers, including last year's battle between the Rays and Rangers for the American League's second Wild Card spot, and it's entirely possible we'll see another in 2014.

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While it would be incredibly lengthy to lay out every conceivable possibility that remains with seven days to go, here are the most realistic scenarios still in play for 2014. (To see a breakdown of every possible tiebreaker scenario, click here.)

Scenario: Two-team tie for best record or Wild Card

We'll start here because these are scenarios that are relatively plausible and do not involve any extra tiebreaker games. If the Dodgers and Nationals, for example, win their divisions outright and finish tied for the best record in the National League, the team with the better head-to-head record -- in this case the Nats, who went 4-2 against the Dodgers -- would get home-field advantage throughout the NL playoffs.

As for the Wild Card, let's say the Royals and A's both beat out the Mariners for the two AL Wild Card spots and have the same record. In this case, the Royals and A's would not play an extra game to determine who gets home-field advantage in the AL Wild Card Game. Instead, Kansas City would host Oakland in the AL Wild Card Game by virtue of a 5-2 record against the A's.

A similar situation could play out in the NL Wild Card race. For example, if the Giants and the Pirates finish with the same record -- and hold the top two Wild Card spots -- the Pirates would host the Giants in the NL Wild Card Game because of a 4-2 advantage in their season series.

Scenario: Two teams tie for the division

This one is pretty straightforward, and we will use the Royals and Tigers as an example. If they tie for the AL Central crown, they will play a one-game tiebreaker on Monday, Sept. 29. Home-field advantage would go to the club with the superior head-to-head record (in this case, that's the Tigers). The winner of this game would claim the division and face either the Angels or Orioles in the AL Division Series (whichever finishes with a worse record), while the loser would head to the AL Wild Card Game or head home, depending on if it qualifies for the Wild Card.

Other possible two-team division ties: Dodgers-Giants, Cardinals-Pirates, Cardinals-Brewers, Brewers-Pirates, Tigers-Indians, Royals-Indians

Scenario: Two teams tie for the second Wild Card spot

Just as straightforward as the above division scenario. We saw this last year with the Rangers and Rays, and Texas got home-field advantage by virtue of its 4-3 regular-season record against Tampa Bay. If the two tying clubs have an even record against each other, the second determining factor for home field is intradivision record.

Possible two-team ties for second Wild Card: Royals-Mariners, A's-Mariners, Tigers-A's, Tigers-Mariners, Pirates-Brewers, Giants-Pirates, Giants-Brewers, Dodgers-Pirates, Dodgers-Brewers and various other possibilities if the Indians, Blue Jays or Yankees surge.

Scenario: Two-team tie for the division, plus a tie with club outside division for one Wild Card spot

If the Tigers and Royals finished in a tie in the AL Central with a third club -- let's say the Mariners -- tying them for an AL Wild Card spot, the following would happen: The Tigers and Royals would play at Comerica Park (because of Detroit's aforementioned head-to-head advantage) on Sept. 29, and the loser of that game would face the Mariners in Seattle to determine the winner of the second AL Wild Card spot.

Scenario: Two-team tie for the division, plus a tie with club outside division for two Wild Card spots

Same as above, except this time the second game would be the AL Wild Card Game, with home-field advantage determined by the two-team tiebreaker system (head-to-head record, followed by intradivision record).

Scenario: Two-team tie for the division, plus a tie with two clubs outside the division for two Wild Card spots

Let's take the above and add a fourth team -- the A's -- into the mix. Two games would take place Monday, Sept. 29 -- the Tigers-Royals game to determine the division winner and a game between the A's and Mariners to determine who advances (home field would go to the Mariners, as they have the head-to-head advantage). The losers of those two games would then face each other (with the same tiebreaker rules applied to determine home field) to decide who faces the winner of the A's-Mariners game in the AL Wild Card Game.

Some other possible ties in this scenario: Cardinals-Pirates-Giants-Brewers, Dodgers-Giants-Pirates-Brewers

Scenario: Three-team tie for the division

Fans of NL Central teams are quite familiar with this late-season possibility from last season, and here we are again, this time in the AL Central. If the Tigers, Royals and Indians somehow all finish with the same record, they would receive an A, B or C designation. Club A would host Club B on Monday, Sept. 29, and the winner would host Club C on Tuesday, Sept. 30. The winner of that game would be the division champ.

The A, B and C designations are decided by head-to-head records among the three clubs. Therefore, in the AL Central scenario, the Tigers would get first choice of designation as they have secured a winning record against both the Royals and the Indians. Either the Royals or the Indians would get the second choice depending on who has the edge in their season series (they have four games remaining against each other). Think of this almost like a draft, and the team with the "first pick" can choose the scenario it likes best. A team might rather play two games than one if it gets to host both, which is why a team might choose to be Club A over Club C. On the other hand, a team could choose Club C designation if it wants to rest a star pitcher and take its chance in one winner-take-all game, even if it is on the road.

Also of important note here: If all three of these teams were tied not just for the division but for the second Wild Card spot, then the loser of the second game would be declared the Wild Card club. And if all three clubs were tied for the first Wild Card spot, then the losers of the two games would face each other in the Wild Card Game, with home-field advantage determined by the head-to-head records from the regular season or, if that is a tie, their respective records within the division.

Scenario: Three-team tie for two Wild Card spots

An especially realistic possibility in the AL, where the Royals, A's and Mariners are all currently neck and neck. Here, the three teams would choose/receive their A, B and C designations in the same manner as outlined above and play accordingly on Sept. 29 and 30. The winner of the game between Club A and Club B would be declared one Wild Card, and Club C would travel to face the loser of that first game to determine the second.

In this instance, the Mariners would have first choice of designation, as they have a winning record against both the A's and Royals. The Royals would get second choice by virtue of their winning record over the A's.

Some other possible three-team ties for two Wild Cards: Giants-Pirates-Brewers and multiple other scenarios in both leagues if the likes of the Indians, Yankees or Blue Jays suddenly surge or the Tigers or Dodgers fall into second place.

Scenario: Three-team tie for one Wild Card spot

The format here would be the same as it is for a three-team division tie, with Club C traveling to face the winner of the game between Clubs A and B to determine the Wild Card winner.

Let's say the A's take the top AL Wild Card spot, while the Royals, Mariners and Indians finish in a tie for the second. The Mariners have a winning record against those two other clubs, so they'd have first choice. The Indians have the advantage over the Royals, so they'd have second choice.

Some other possible three-team ties for one Wild Card: Various scenarios if Dodgers, Tigers or Cardinals lose division lead or Yankees or Blue Jays surge.

Scenario: Four-team tie for one or two Wild Card spots

While we're not exactly holding our breath, it's still a mathematical possibility for four teams to tie for two spots in the AL, if only because the Indians and Royals still face each other three times (four, if you count the suspended game the Indians are leading in the 10th).

So if the Royals, A's, Mariners and Indians all somehow finished tied, buckle up. They would be given A, B, C and D designations, with first choice going to the club with the highest winning percentage among the tied clubs, second choice going to the club with the second-highest winning percentage, etc. Club A would host Club B and Club C would host Club D on Monday, Sept. 29. The winners of each of those games would be declared the Wild Card clubs.

This is even less likely, but if there were a four-team tie for one Wild Card spot, the winners of the two games would face each other (in the home park of the winner of Club A vs. Club B) to determine the winner on Sept. 30.

Scenario: Two-team tie for best record in the league

Pretty simple here. The league's No. 1 playoff seed is given to the club with the head-to-head advantage. If that's a tie, it goes to the club with the higher intradivision record. If that's a tie, it goes to the club with the better record in the last half of intraleague games.

The Angels and Orioles have both clinched and moved on to a less-hyped but still-important race for the AL's best record and home-field advantage throughout October (the AL has home-field advantage in the World Series because of the All-Star Game result). Should they finish tied, the O's have the upper hand by virtue of their 4-2 record against the Halos.

Some other possible two-team ties for best record in the league: Nationals-Dodgers, Nationals-Cardinals, Dodgers-Cardinals

Scenario: Three-team tie for best record in the league

Still a possibility in the NL. If the Nationals, Dodgers and Cardinals all finished with the same record, their head-to-head records would come into play. The Cards won the season series against the Nats, 5-2; the Nationals won the season series against the Dodgers, 4-2; and the Dodgers won the season series against the Cardinals, 4-3. This gives the Cards an advantage, as they are 8-6 combined against the other two clubs. They would choose the No. 1 seed. The Nats would have the second seed, by virtue of their winning record against Los Angeles.

Another possible three-team tie for best record in the league: Nationals-Cardinals-Giants.

Scenario: Three-team tie for best record with two of the teams in the same division

If the Giants, Dodgers and Nationals finish with the same record, the Giants and Dodgers would play a game to determine the NL West champ. However, even though that counts as a regular-season game, it has no bearing on the tiebreaker with the Nats. Instead, the head-to-head record between the Nationals and NL West champ would be used to determine which team gets the No. 1 seed.

Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his columns and follow him on Twitter at @Castrovince. Michael Lananna, who is an associate reporter for MLB.com, contributed to this story. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Tanaka victorious in return to hill against Jays

Righty allows one run in 5 1/3; McCann, Gardner, Jeter pace offense

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NEW YORK -- The standings suggest that the Yankees still have the slimmest of chances at sneaking into the postseason, but no matter those odds, Masahiro Tanaka's return to the mound provided the organization with a most important glimpse into their 2015 planning.

Following a 10-week layoff due to a partially torn ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow, Tanaka permitted just a run over 5 1/3 innings and left the field by almost bashfully doffing his cap to a standing ovation in the Yankees' 5-2 win over the Blue Jays on Sunday at Yankee Stadium. The Yanks remained 4 1/2 games behind the Royals for the second American League Wild Card spot.

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"It's been a while since I've been back out there, but overall I'm pretty satisfied with how I pitched today," Tanaka said through an interpreter. "I felt like I was able to do all the things I wanted to do on the mound."

Brian McCann homered twice, Brett Gardner launched the 15,000th homer in franchise history and Derek Jeter continued to swing a hot bat in his final regular-season homestand, posting a fourth straight multihit game that included a stolen base and a run scored.

"It's fun," Jeter said. "It's a lot better when they're cheering for you. But the fans have been great to me all season. Now, I feel good, and we're still trying to win games. Until we're out of games, we all need to battle and play as hard as we can."

Jeter singled in the fifth to chase Blue Jays starter Drew Hutchison and knocked home Gardner with his double down the left-field line in the seventh off Todd Redmond, then stole third uncontested on Daniel Norris, prompting chants of "Thank you, Derek!" to ring throughout the stands.

"Hopefully, he keeps getting two hits and decides he wants to play again next year," Gardner said.

If not, at least they may have Tanaka. He had not appeared on a big league mound since July 8 at Cleveland, but the right-hander looked sharp enough to compete, scattering five hits while walking none and striking out four with a hit-by-pitch.

"He looked like the same guy I saw earlier this season," Toronto slugger Jose Bautista said.

The Yankees do not have many locks for their '15 rotation, and it would be a great help to know that Tanaka will be able to avoid surgery and can be counted on to return to his All-Star form.

"We got through today, so let's get through tomorrow," manager Joe Girardi said. "Let's keep our fingers crossed."

The Blue Jays took an early lead off Tanaka, as Jose Reyes' liner sailed past second baseman Stephen Drew and Bautista beat the shift with a ground ball, setting up a run-scoring double play by Edwin Encarnacion.

Tanaka then snapped off an encouraging splitter that darted past Dioner Navarro's bat, ending the inning. After the back-to-back singles opening the first, Tanaka used his curveball more regularly than in the first half and retired 14 of the next 16 hitters.

"My curveballs were pretty sharp today," Tanaka said. "That's why I was throwing them. Usually it's not that good."

McCann started the Yankees' offense with a solo shot to right field in the first inning off Hutchison. Gardner gave New York the lead, clearing the right-field wall in the fifth -- the Yankees' 15,000th blast dating back to 1903, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

"I don't think I'll be around for 20,000," quipped Gardner, who swapped a pair of bats and autographed balls for the memento.

Hutchison held New York to five hits over four-plus innings. McCann also went deep off Norris in the seventh, marking his 11th career multihomer game and his second as a Yankee.

"It felt good," McCann said. "I got some pitches to hit and I was able to not miss them."

At 61 pitches through five innings, Tanaka was permitted to start the sixth and allowed a single to Reyes before inducing a Bautista ground ball; Drew opted to tag Reyes, costing a shot at a double play before Encarnacion singled to end Tanaka's day.

"It's a step in the right direction," pitching coach Larry Rothschild said. "Are we going to know fully until five years down the road? Probably not. ... It's possible that he can get through this for quite a while."

After striking out two batters to finish the sixth, Adam Warren worked a perfect seventh, Dellin Betances was touched for a run in the eighth and David Robertson pitched a scoreless ninth, locking down his 38th save in 42 opportunities.

The Yankees will now tentatively plan to send Tanaka back to the mound on Saturday against the Red Sox at Fenway Park, lending some added meaning to that game no matter what the standings situation may be by then.

"Obviously, we knew that we would miss him," Girardi said. "I think our starting pitchers have done a pretty good job in his absence, but it sure would have been nice to have him."

Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and read his MLBlog, Bombers Beat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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On a roll, Jeter to play every game down stretch

On a roll, Jeter to play every game down stretch play video for On a roll, Jeter to play every game down stretch

NEW YORK -- Derek Jeter is saving his best for last.

In the Yankees' 5-2 victory over the Blue Jays on Sunday afternoon, Jeter collected two hits, including an RBI double. It was his fourth straight two-hit game, as he became the first Yankees player 40 or older to have such a streak.

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And so, as Jeter embarks on his final week of baseball -- and final four games at Yankee Stadium -- manager Joe Girardi said Sunday that he expects to play the Yankees' captain in every game until the season's conclusion, an easy decision considering his recent performance.

"Obviously, some of those days are going to be DH days to keep him going, similar to what [Sunday] is," said Girardi. "He had Monday off, but now he's swinging the bat and I'm going to keep him in there."

Jeter has certainly made the most of his last homestand so far, hitting .471 with two doubles, a home run and three RBIs, with every at-bat accompanied by standing ovations, name chants and camera flashes.

"It's fun. It's a lot better when they're cheering for you," said Jeter. "But the fans have been great to me all season. Now, I feel good, and we're still trying to win games. Until we're out of games, we all need to battle and play as hard as we can."

On Sunday, he helped lead the Yankees to a series victory over Toronto by doubling home Brett Gardner in the seventh inning, stealing third base and then scoring on Brian McCann's home run.

"That's a huge hit in that situation," said Girardi of Jeter's double, which extended the Yankees' lead to 3-1. "Then he steals third -- it makes it much easier for the guys to get him in. ... But he's hit the ball with more authority. And that's the ups and downs of a hitter."

"I don't feel different," said Jeter. "I'm well aware it's winding down getting constantly reminded about it. But like always, you want to play well. This is a game where you've got to battle sometimes. Sometimes things aren't as easy as they look. Like I said before, I'm going to play as hard as I can until we're out of games."

What's been more impressive -- and certainly more exciting for fans getting one more look at Jeter -- has been his turnaround, breaking out of a 1-for-30 slump on the first pitch he saw Thursday to start his final eight-game stretch at home.

"A lot of times when a guy is older and they're going through it, everyone's ready to write him off," said Girardi. "That's what happens. That's the nature of the business. But he's swung the bat extremely well since I gave him the day off in Tampa."

Jake Kring-Schreifels is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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MLB.com Columnist

Roger Schlueter

MLB Notebook: The case of Kluber's K's

Indians right-hander racks up another 14-strikeout effort in latest victory

MLB Notebook: The case of Kluber's K's play video for MLB Notebook: The case of Kluber's K's

In 2013, the Detroit Tigers became the first team to feature three qualifying pitchers with strikeout rates of at least 8.90 per nine innings. With Max Scherzer, Anibal Sanchez and Justin Verlander doing their thing, the Tigers amassed a Major League-record 1,428 strikeouts. When it comes to starters and punchout rates, the 2014 Indians employ a different schematic than the one used by the 2013 Tigers, but the Tribe -- in Corey Kluber -- have a pretty good alpha dog, and with a week to go in the 2014 season, the club is just 37 strikeouts from tying that record set last year.

Kluber, after striking out 14 batters in his last outing on Tuesday, made it two 14-K efforts in a row in an eight-inning effort against the Twins on Sunday. In addition to the 14 punchouts, Kluber allowed two runs and picked up his 17th win in a 7-2 victory.

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The right-hander is the 15th pitcher since 1914 (and third Indians hurler, counting two efforts from Sam McDowell) to have at least two straight games with 14-plus strikeouts; "at least two" is necessary, because Pedro Martinez posted three straight in 1999. That season, Martinez also had another pair of back-to-back efforts of at least 14 K's. Pedro is the only one with three in a row. The full list: McDowell (two two-game streaks in 1968), Bob Gibson ('68), Mickey Lolich ('71), Dwight Gooden ('84), Jose Rijo ('86), Roger Clemens ('88), Randy Johnson (1997, '99), Pedro Martinez (three in a row in 1999, two in a row in '99, 2000), Randy Johnson (2001, '04), Kluber (2014).

Kluber now has 10 games this season with at least 10 strikeouts. Those 10 are the most for an Indians pitcher since McDowell had 10 in 1970, and are the second most for an Indians right-hander since 1914. In 1946, Bob Feller had 12.

Kluber's 258 strikeouts are the most for an Indians pitcher since McDowell had 304 in 1970, and the 258 rank as the fifth most for an Indians righty. Feller had 348 in 1946, 261 in '40, and 260 in '41. In 1968, Luis Tiant racked up 264.

Perhaps overshadowed a bit by Kluber, left fielder Michael Brantley finished the day 3-for-5 with a double and two RBIs. Brantley has a slash line of .325/.384/.506, good for a 152 OPS+. There have been five seasons in which an Indians left fielder (at least 100 games in left) qualified for the batting title and finished the year with a higher OPS+: Albert Belle in 1994 (194), Belle in '95 (177), Belle in '96 (158), Jeff Heath in '43 (155) and Gene Woodling in '57 (153). The only one of these five as young as Brantley (age-27 season) was Belle in '94.

Odds and ends
• Making his first start since July 8, right-hander Masahiro Tanaka allowed a run in 5 1/3 innings and picked up his 13th win in the Yankees' 5-2 victory over the Blue Jays. No Yankees first-year pitcher has won at least 13 games and finished with an ERA as low as Tanaka's 2.47 since Wilcy Moore posted a 2.28 in his 19-7 season in 1927.

• Making his 22nd career appearance, right-hander Jacob deGrom fanned 10 Braves and picked up the win in the Mets' 10-2 victory. deGrom is the fourth pitcher in Mets history to have at least four double-digit strikeout games through his first 22 appearances, joining Gooden (eight), Matt Harvey (five) and Nolan Ryan (four).

deGrom -- who fanned 13 in his previous outing -- has 38 strikeouts in September. The last Mets pitcher to be in his debut season and have at least 38 punchouts in a September/October was Gooden, with 62 in 1984.

• With their 1-0 victory over the Brewers, the Pirates improved to 101-61 (.623) at home since the start of the 2013 season. Only the Cardinals, at 105-57 (.648), own a better mark.

Wade Davis fanned two in a perfect eighth inning, contributing to the 3 2/3 scoreless innings hurled by the Royals' bullpen in Kansas City's 5-2 win over the Tigers. Davis has struck out 103 of the 265 batters he has faced this season (38.87 percent). That mark would currently sit as the fifth highest for an American League pitcher with at least 60 innings. The punch line: three of the four seasons ahead of him are being authored this year.

AL history in the now: highest K%, minimum 60 innings
Pitcher Year K% IP
Andrew Miller 2014 42.55 60.2
Brad Boxberger 2014 42.39 64
Greg Holland 2013 40.39 67
Dellin Betances 2014 39.58 89
Wade Davis 2014 38.87 69

• Houston's Jose Altuve doubled and singled for yet another multihit game as the Astros defeated the Mariners, 8-3. Altuve's two hits gave him 220 knocks for the season. Those 220 are the most for any second baseman since the Tigers' Charlie Gehringer had 227 in 1936. Besides Gehringer, the only other AL second basemen to have at least 220 are Johnny Hodapp (225 in 1930), Eddie Collins (224 in '20), and Nap Lajoie (232 in 1901 and 227 in '10).

Altuve's 220 are the most for a player in an age-24 or younger season since Willie Wilson had 230 in his age-24 season with the Royals in 1980. There are 12 others since 1901 to have at least 220 in an age-24 or younger season, and the names are too interesting to ignore: Al Simmons (once), Freddie Lindstrom (twice), Ducky Medwick (twice), Hodapp (once), Lloyd Waner (three times), Paul Waner (once), Richie Ashburn (once), Joe Jackson (twice), Stan Musial (once), Tommy Davis (once), Tris Speaker (once) and Ty Cobb (once).

Matt Kemp homered in a four-hit, four-RBI day to lead the Dodgers to an 8-5 win over the Cubs. In 145 games this season, Kemp is carrying an OPS+ of 138 -- his highest in a season in which he's qualified for the batting title since leading the league with a 172 in 2011. Kemp owns a career mark of 128; he is one of 21 players in Dodgers history to have at least 1,000 games with the club through his first nine years. Among this collection, Kemp's 128 is the third highest OPS+, behind Duke Snider's 143 and Jackie Robinson's 134.

Josh Donaldson hit a two-run homer in the bottom of the 10th inning to give the Athletics an 8-6 victory over the Phillies. Donaldson has three walk-off homers this season -- the first A's player with three in one year since Matt Stairs had three in 1999.

• The Padres defeated the Giants, 8-2, to finish off a three-game sweep in which they limited San Francisco to just four runs. San Diego claims a 2.58 ERA at Petco Park this season: a home ERA that has been matched or bettered by only seven NL teams since the Padres played their first season in 1969: the 1972 Dodgers (2.49 ERA), the '75 Dodgers (2.35), the '76 Astros (2.53), the '78 Padres (2.50), the '79 Astros (2.41), the '81 Astros (1.70) and the '88 Mets (2.33).

Roger Schlueter is senior researcher for MLB Productions. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Bucs closing in on playoff spot after blanking Crew

Worley deals gem to help reduce club's magic number to three

Bucs closing in on playoff spot after blanking Crew play video for Bucs closing in on playoff spot after blanking Crew

PITTSBURGH -- September is for heroes, tight collars and redemption -- the road taken Sunday by Vance Worley.

Six days after getting bumped from the Pirates' rotation, Worley returned to pitch eight magnificent innings to set up the Bucs' 1-0 victory over the Brewers in the final regular-season game at PNC Park.

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The victory reduced Pittsburgh's magic number for clinching a playoff berth to three. The Brewers fell 4 1/2 games back in the race for the second National League Wild Card spot with their second loss in the three-game series.

"It sure doesn't look good," Milwaukee manager Ron Roenicke said. "[The Pirates] are a good team. They're playing well, and you don't expect them to not play well here the last [seven] games. And we've got to basically win it out. That's not easy to do."

Conversely, the series win was the Pirates' 12th in the last 14 at home -- which is where they intend to play the NL Wild Card Game.

So they have some road work remaining, to make sure the last ones to run the PNC Park bases in 2014 won't be the kids who had the run of the place after Sunday's game.

The Bucs have those seven away games remaining on their claustrophobic schedule. Eighty-seven of the first 155 have been decided by one run or two -- including the pair of 1-0 thrillers these two teams split the last two days.

On Fan Appreciation Day, the Bucs got the biggest going-away gift of all: A franchise-record season attendance of 2,442,564, pushed there by Sunday's crowd of 38,650.

"They make a difference," manager Clint Hurdle said of his home crowd, in front of which the Pirates went 101-61 the last two seasons. "They give us energy. You feel it."

Sunday's curtain was dropped by the same guy who two days earlier had gotten a curtain call for his game-winning home run. This time, Russell Martin drove in the decisive run with a seventh-inning single that was the Pirates' first outfield hit off Milwaukee ace Wily Peralta.

The hit to center drove in Andrew McCutchen, who had reached base on the Bucs' third infield hit of the day, and advanced two bases on catcher Jonathan Lucroy's passed ball and a wild pitch, respectively.

Martin was quick to defer to his batterymate, though.

"Today, obviously, was about Vance Worley," the catcher said. "He was outstanding. He was throwing the first punch out there every time."

Worley started off 21 of the 27 batters he faced with strikes on the first pitch. Not that he had to throw that many more: He banked his eight innings on a total of 82 -- only 19 of them out of the strike zone -- and retired the final 13 batters he faced.

"That," Worley said, with a wide grin," was a lot of fun."

Worley was in position to possibly even better his 100-pitch complete game on July 28 in San Francisco, for the Pirates' only individual shutout of the season. However, he departed in favor of a leadoff pinch-hitter in the eighth, and Tony Watson got to post his first save since June 20, 2013.

Pushed aside earlier in the week in favor of a comeback start by Charlie Morton, now again sidelined by his sports hernia, Worley allowed just four hits while striking out five and walking none in his eight innings. He fanned five, and the 19 other outs included only three outfield flies; 14 came on the ground and three on infield popups.

"A little rest was good for me," conceded the Californian, who will turn 27 during the road trip. "This is the deepest I've gone into a season the last couple of years, so it gave me some time to get my feet back under me, to gather up some of the energy I used up early in the season."

"For me," he added, "it was all about strike one and keeping the ball down in the zone."

Following disappointments in past Septembers due either to injuries or the trust not shown in him by other teams, Worley owned this opportunity.

"He had everything working," Hurdle said. "Excellent. He pitched away, he changed speeds."

With Martin's guidance, he also was deceptive.

"He stayed away [early], mixed in the offspeed stuff," the catcher said. "In their second and third at-bats, he started to throw the ball in. [Until then], they hadn't really seen any fastballs in from him, and when he goes in, he's got some good movement. He saved a few pitches for that -- and it showed."

Peralta, however, crowded Worley in the spotlight beaming down on the mound. Through six innings, the Bucs' only two hits were infield jobs by Josh Harrison, including a bunt single in the sixth.

Worley outlasted Peralta. And all of his first punches led to Martin's knockout punch applying the other bookend to the home season.

The Bucs began it on March 31 with a 1-0 win over the Cubs and ended it with their only other 1-0 win of 2014.

Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. He can also be found on Twitter @Tom_Singer. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Gomez's baserunning mistake proves costly in ninth

Gomez's baserunning mistake proves costly in ninth play video for Gomez's baserunning mistake proves costly in ninth

PITTSBURGH -- The mistake, Carlos Gomez said after a loss that severely hampered the Brewers' bid for the postseason, was not leaving second base. It was stopping on the way to third.

With the Pirates ahead, 1-0, and closer Mark Melancon unavailable after pitching three straight days, the Brewers had some chances in the ninth against left-hander Tony Watson. Gomez led off with a single -- giving Milwaukee its first baserunner since the fourth inning -- and took second when pinch-hitter Rickie Weeks hit a chopper over the mound, with Watson's throw popping out of the first baseman's glove.

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The super-aggressive Gomez, seeing Josh Harrison wander off third base on the play, broke off second. But then he stopped and was retired in a rundown.

"I think I have a chance to make it to third if I didn't stop," Gomez said. "If I continue to run, it's really easy to make it to third because everybody broke to that ball. Nobody was on third. I don't know why I stopped."

He added: "A baseball player, an athlete, sometimes you 'want,' and your body doesn't react. It's a mistake, and hopefully I learn from it."

Jonathan Lucroy followed with a popup to shortstop for the second out of the inning, but Watson gave the Brewers one last gasp when he hit Aramis Ramirez with a pitch. With the tying runner in scoring position, Ryan Braun flew the first pitch to center field, ending the game and dropping the Brewers 4 1/2 games behind the Pirates with six to play.

Said Brewers manager Ron Roenicke of the critical baserunning mistake: "In a one-run game -- every out is important, every run is important."

Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Brew Beat, and follow him on Twitter at @AdamMcCalvy. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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All-bullpen game plan sends LA home happy

Kemp's four-RBI day helps Dodgers trim magic number to 3

All-bullpen game plan sends LA home happy play video for All-bullpen game plan sends LA home happy

CHICAGO -- Having already deployed four defenders on the same side of the infield this year, the Dodgers went out of the box again Sunday, piecing the work of six relievers from start to finish to fend off the Cubs, 8-5.

The Dodgers went all-bullpen because Hyun-Jin Ryu's shoulder isn't ready and manager Don Mattingly wanted to save Dan Haren for the Monday night opener of a three-game series that offers the dual pleasures of potentially clinching the division (magic number is three) and eliminating the Giants at the same time.

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"It just worked out, but the biggest thing was putting runs on the board," said manager Don Mattingly, not willing to say the Dodgers stole a game with the unconventional pitching approach.

Matt Kemp homered with four hits and four RBIs and Yasiel Puig scored four runs in the Bullpen Day win as the Dodgers finished the away schedule with the best road record (49-32) in baseball after a taxing 6-4 trip.

Kemp said he won't be satisfied with a second consecutive division title.

"I want to win out," he said. "I want to have the best record in the National League. That would say something about our team. The home-field advantage is important."

The Dodgers' offense enjoyed the trip through three hitters' parks, averaging 7.5 runs a game. Kemp leads the league in slugging percentage since the All-Star break, Adrian Gonzalez added an RBI to his league-leading total (112) and extended his hitting streak to nine games, Hanley Ramirez is hitting .488 over the last dozen games, and Puig has come alive again. Ramirez, Juan Uribe and Scott Van Slyke also drove in runs.

"A lot of guys have been stepping up," said Mattingly, joking that canceling batting practice this weekend hasn't hurt. "Getting into the last month, our guys know where we're at and what's at stake."

Jamey Wright, making his 248th Major League start but only the second since 2007, allowed one run in two innings to start the bullpen parade. He struck out three but one of two walks turned into the Cubs' first run and helped up his pitch count to 46.

Wright left with a 4-1 lead and Carlos Frias took the baton. He struck out five, but both walks contributed to three runs in three innings.

"Frias' third inning [the fifth, which started with a pair of walks] was scary," said pitching coach Rick Honeycutt. "But he bounced back, didn't give up the lead and we stuck with the plan. We wanted to get through the fifth inning with a lead and then match up. Frias closing out the fifth inning was huge. Thank goodness this time of year we have extra arms. We got the ball to Kenley [Jansen] with a three-run lead, and that's what we were shooting for."

Frias handed off a two-run lead to Chris Perez, who retired all four batters he faced to get the win (scorer's discretion), and Paco Rodriguez followed by retiring the two batters he faced.

"The turning point in the game was the six consecutive outs by Chris and Paco," said catcher A.J. Ellis. "Those two guys have up their ups and downs with health and performance this year, but they've bounced back and stopped their momentum."

Pedro Baez, setup man du jour, allowed a leadoff home run in the eighth to Welington Castillo but held the game there, and Jansen pitched into and out of a ninth-inning jam for his 43rd save.

"I just challenged myself in that situation not to let them score," said Jansen, aided mightily by a defensive gem from Uribe on Anthony Rizzo's one-out grounder that was tougher than it looked.

"Even as young as we are, I thought we held our own," said Cubs manager Rick Renteria. "Don't think they weren't a little worried in the ninth when we got going. They're trying to clinch a division, and we're trying to show everybody who we are."

Of course, there were the daily Puig theatrics. In the first inning, he ran through a stop sign to score. In the fifth inning, immediately after appearing to turn his right ankle on an aborted slide stealing second base, he dashed around third without hesitation and scored standing up on a Kemp single. He also had two hits and reached base on an error and passed-ball strikeout.

Wright was still beating himself up for allowing a second-inning single to opposing pitcher Jacob Turner, which ran his pitch count high enough to keep him from a third inning.

"I got strike two on the pitcher with a four-seamer, which I hadn't thrown in five years, and I got that old feeling that I could throw it by him again for a punchout and he slapped it into right field," said Wright. "That's what I get for getting greedy."

Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Altuve has most hits by second baseman since '36

Astros All-Star passes Carew with RBI double for hit No. 219 of year

Altuve has most hits by second baseman since '36 play video for Altuve has most hits by second baseman since '36

HOUSTON -- The hits keep coming for Jose Altuve. As do the milestones for the Astros All-Star second baseman.

Altuve's RBI double in a three-run fifth inning of Sunday's 8-3 win over the Mariners was his 219th hit this season. That hit put him in elite company among second baseman in baseball history. With the double off Seattle right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma, Altuve passed Rod Carew for most hits in a season by a second baseman since 1936. Charlie Gehringer of the Tigers had 227 hits that year.

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Altuve later added an infield single for his 220th hit of the season. Earlier this month, Altuve broke Craig Biggio's franchise record of 210 hits in a season.

"He's the catalyst of the ballclub," interim manager Tom Lawless said. "When he gets on, things happen. He has 220 hits. That's unheard of, for him to do it and continue to do it just about every game."

Altuve leads the Majors with a .345 batting average.

"When you're not in there every day, you want to make the most of the times you get in," said teammate Alex Presley. "We're just having fun watching Altuve get hits.

"We're going to feed off his hits. It's been a blast this homestand. As a team and watching him play. He's unreal, and he deserves all the praise he's been getting."

Removed in the top of the ninth with the game well in hand, Altuve received an ovation from the fans at Minute Maid Park.

"I want to thank the fans for supporting the team," he said.

Richard Dean is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Lynn solid, but Cards can't get closer to division title

On day playoff berth secured, magic number at 5 after loss to Reds

Lynn solid, but Cards can't get closer to division title play video for Lynn solid, but Cards can't get closer to division title

ST. LOUIS -- The Cardinals quietly acknowledged their assurances of participating in the postseason when that became official on Sunday afternoon, but they took the field with their eyes on a bigger prize. What they couldn't do, however, was play their way closer to it.

With a chance to sweep the Reds, the Cardinals were instead blasted about en route to dropping their regular-season home finale, 7-2, in front of the 52nd sellout at Busch Stadium. St. Louis was stung most obviously by Cincinnati's four home runs -- two off starter Lance Lynn and two off rookie reliever Sam Tuivailala -- but also by a stomach virus that had, according to manager Mike Matheny's postgame estimates, more than 10 players unavailable or at less than at full health for the game. The coaching staff was not immune either.

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"I've never seen anything like it," one player said of the rapidly spreading illness.

"Bad timing," said another.

The Cardinals, fortunate to have won seven games in a nine-game homestand were they scored 33 runs, will take the field next in Chicago on Monday, where they'll hold a 2 1/2-game lead over the Pirates in the National League Central and a magic number of 5 to win it. The Cardinals are hopeful that quick recoveries and a containment of the virus can give themselves a uninhibited shot at finishing strong.

As players were packing after Sunday's loss, the Cardinals were discussing delaying travel for some who were ill in order to keep them quarantined from the healthy."'Wash Your Hands" signs dotted the clubhouse as reminders.

"Whatever it is, it's hit fast and hard," Matheny said. "It's just something we're going to have to wade through. There were guys we weren't expecting it to hit, and it did. We're just going to have to try and get through it and weather the storm."

Matt Carpenter and Matt Adams missed both weekend games due to sickness, though their replacements (Daniel Descalso and Xavier Scruggs) combined to help the Cardinals tie the game with back-to-back hits in the fourth.

However, the Reds made Busch Stadium seem as small as their home park in becoming the third team to go deep four times in a game against the Cardinals this season. It was especially rare to see Lynn stung by the long ball, as the solo home runs by Jay Bruce (fourth inning) and Todd Frazier (sixth inning) equaled the number of homers Lynn had allowed since the All-Star break (12 starts) and at home all season (17 starts).

Both gave the Reds a one-run lead.

"I made two pitches in the middle of the zone for homers, balls that ran back over the middle that weren't supposed to run back middle," said Lynn, who had held the Reds hitless until Bruce's two-out homer in the fourth. "That's not something that I like to do, give up homers."

The Reds scratched another run off Lynn in the sixth on consecutive two-out hits by Brandon Phillips and Bruce.

"Lance Lynn has done a very nice job all year," Bruce said. "To be able to get to him a little bit and continue to keep our foot on the gas and score some runs to kind of ease into a win there, it's nice."

Lynn has been so dominant as of late that his allowing three runs seemed like a subpar start. In actuality, it was his 23rd quality start of the season, one fewer than ace Adam Wainwright.

A pitch count of 100 forced Lynn out after the sixth, though with the Cardinals only trailing, 3-2. Consecutive doubles by Yadier Molina and Randal Grichuk off Reds starter Alfredo Simon had plated that second run.

But limited in his relief options, Matheny had to look for help beyond his usual core of late-inning regulars. Though he wasn't specific in who had to be held back due to illness or recent usage, Matheny acknowledged that he had "almost as many unavailable as available" in his 13-man 'pen.

Jason Motte fared well with a 1-2-3 seventh in what could have been the pending free agent's final home appearance as a Cardinal.

"I didn't think about it until you just said it," Motte said of that possibility. "We're going to be in the playoffs. We'll see if it is or if it isn't."

Matheny turned to Kevin Siegrist to cover the eighth, though consecutive leadoff walks necessitated another move. Short on right-handed relievers -- Seth Maness, for one, had been up most of the night dealing with stomach issues -- Matheny had Tuivailala make his Busch Stadium debut.

The hard-throwing righty served up homers to Devin Mesoraco (three-run) and Bruce (solo).

"He came in there throwing strikes, but unfortunately it turned into runs," Matheny said of Tuivailala. "He's got great stuff. He's going to be good. We put him in a tough spot trying to get through the tough spot we're in as a club. It didn't work out tonight."

Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, and follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Gardner belts 15,000th homer in Yanks history

Gardner belts 15,000th homer in Yanks history play video for Gardner belts 15,000th homer in Yanks history

NEW YORK -- Brett Gardner connected for the 15,000th home run in Yankees franchise history on Sunday afternoon, launching a solo shot to right field off Drew Hutchison in New York's 5-2 victory over the Blue Jays at Yankee Stadium.

Gardner's blast carried into the second deck in right field and marked the second Yankees home run of the afternoon, following a first-inning blast by Brian McCann that also came off Hutchison.

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"I knew a few days ago that we were a couple away, maybe within four or five," said Gardner, who has hit a career-high 17 home runs this year. "I wasn't sure if it was the one I hit or the one McCann had hit. That's pretty cool. It's definitely something that I'll never forget."

According to research performed by the Elias Sports Bureau, the Yankees entered the afternoon with 14,998 home runs dating back to 1903. The Yankees are the only Major League team with more than 14,000 home runs; the Giants are second.

After Sunday's win, Gardner met the family that caught the ball outside the clubhouse, swapping a pair of bats and signed baseballs for the memento.

"They were happy," Gardner said. "They were probably happier that they saw Masahiro [Tanaka] walking down the tunnel going into the conference room. They were probably happier about seeing him than they were about meeting me. It was pretty cool."

The baseball, marked with the Derek Jeter final season logo, was resting on a shelf in Gardner's locker at the close of business on Sunday. Gardner said that he was not sure where it might go from there.

"I might just get Derek to sign it," Gardner said.

The first Yankees home run was hit when the team was still known as the Highlanders by first baseman John Ganzel, an inside-the-park shot off Detroit's George Mullin at Bennett Park on May 11, 1903.

Other notable milestone home runs in franchise history include No. 1,000, hit by Bob Meusel on Sept. 2, 1925, vs. Boston's Paul Zahniser; No. 5,000, hit by Mickey Mantle on Aug. 8, 1954, off Detroit's Billy Hoeft; and No. 10,000, hit by Claudell Washington on April 20, 1988, off Minnesota's Jeff Reardon.

Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and read his MLBlog, Bombers Beat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Mets complete sweep behind dominant deGrom

Recker drives in three and Tejada plates two to lead New York's offense

Mets complete sweep behind dominant deGrom play video for Mets complete sweep behind dominant deGrom

ATLANTA -- In his previous start against Miami at Citi Field, Jacob deGrom tied a modern Major League record by striking out the first eight hitters he faced. On Sunday afternoon at Turner Field, deGrom came out and struck out the first four Atlanta Braves hitters.

"'Here we go again' was what I was thinking," said Mets manager Terry Collins. "It's just amazing. He's been unbelievable. I didn't think he really had his good stuff but he battles and battles and battles. He's been so impressive it's incredible."

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The rookie right-hander would only strike out those first four hitters, but went on to fire four perfect innings, allowed two runs and three hits over six innings and led the Mets to a 10-2 win and a sweep of the weekend series, the first series sweep at Turner Field in seven years (Aug. 31-Sept. 2, 2007). It also clinched the season series in Atlanta (5-4) and overall (10-9) and pulled them to within a half-game of the Braves for second place in the NL East.

So that left one question surrounding deGrom -- no, not is he National League Rookie of the Year. That one's already settled in Collins' mind. It's either deGrom or teammate Jeurys Familia, he of the 73 appearances (second in the NL) and 2.30 ERA (which would be second in the NL).

The question remaining was: "Was this deGrom's final start or penultimate start?"

"We'll regroup here in a couple of days and decide," said Collins. "He's real close to where we wanted him to get anyway on the season. We were talking 180 to 185 innings was going to be max anyway. But he and I have talked and he wants to go out there."

"I want to make another one," said deGrom, who has now thrown 178 innings between the Majors and Minors this season. "I told him I'd like to make the next one. Why not? I would like to get to the 185 so there's no limit next year and I can get to the 200 mark with no problem."

If Sunday was his final start, he made a nice final impression. deGrom, struck out 10, for his fourth career double-digit strikeout game and second in a row, retiring the first 12 Braves, striking out eight of them.

"He was throwing the ball awesome and it seemed like he was just going to keep getting outs," said catcher Anthony Recker, who had three hits, one short of his season high, and three RBIs, matching his season best. "For me, it was just my job not to screw it up."

After the fourth inning came some rough patches, as deGrom allowed his only two runs of the day -- only one of them earned -- in the fifth and had runners at first and second with one out in the sixth.

"I started leaving a couple of pitches up and then kind of lost my command a little bit," said deGrom of the fifth. "I walked some guys. I think I lost a little bit of control."

But he was able to reach back for a little extra when he needed to, limiting the damage in the fifth by getting a pair of strikeouts then inducing an inning-ending double play in the sixth.

"I was just trying to stay within myself early on and then if I needed to, try to throw it by somebody with a little more on it," said deGrom, who went six innings for the 12th straight start and in typical fashion, pounded the strike zone, firing 63 strikes out of 100 pitches. "I was actually trying to do that consciously. That was the game plan."

He even helped himself offensively in the sixth after giving up his two runs, getting one of the runs back by laying down a perfect squeeze bunt, his second RBI of the season. deGrom reached thanks to an error on the play, loading the bases with one out, but the Mets left the bases full as Matt den Dekker struck out and Wilmer Flores popped out. The Mets sealed the deal getting a run in the eighth and three more in the ninth.

As was the case Saturday, New York littered the basepaths, this time rocking four Atlanta pitchers for 10 runs and 14 hits. They knocked around starter Ervin Santana, for five runs on six hits in five innings. It was the second straight time the Mets got to him, scoring nine earned runs in 12 innings in those starts. They'd lost twice to him in a 10-day span back in April, managing just one run in 15 innings.

"There were quality at-bats up and down the lineup," said Daniel Murphy. "[Lucas] Duda swung the bat well, 'Reck' had a big day off the bench, [den Dekker], [Kirk Nieuwenhuis], just good AB's up and down the lineup and with that we were able to put up some crooked numbers."

They put up those crooked numbers despite going 2-for-13 with runners in scoring position, making them 4-for-25 over the last two days. But on Sunday the Mets found other ways to score. They had a pair of sacrifice flies, a run-scoring groundout, and they took advantage of Atlanta generosity, cashing in a passed ball and an errant pickoff throw.

"That's what good teams do," said Duda, who also had three hits. "We're not a team that can always hit the ball out of the ball park. We're a team that has to move the runners, get them in from third. We did that today."

The Mets are off to Washington, D.C., where they'll open a three-game set with the Nationals on Tuesday. It should be a fun trip, as the rookies were given costumes to wear on the trip.

Included was deGrom, who was donning a Wonder Woman halter and matching short shorts.

Call it another reason he'll never forget Sept. 21, 2014. He's hoping to give the Mets and their fans one more unforgettable start in about five days.

Jon Cooper is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Padres back Kennedy in sweeping Giants

Maybin singles home two in four-run sixth; Grandal drives in three

Padres back Kennedy in sweeping Giants play video for Padres back Kennedy in sweeping Giants

SAN DIEGO -- If you didn't know better and weren't privy to the National League standings, you might have thought it was the Padres and not the Giants who were deep in the hunt for a spot in the playoff race based on what happened at Petco Park.

The Padres, long since eliminated from the postseason chase, completed a three-game sweep Sunday with an 8-2 victory, getting strong starting pitching, several good defensive plays and enough hitting to make it all work.

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"Good games -- I'm proud of the way we played," said Padres manager Bud Black. "That's a tremendous team over there [the Giants]. They have experience, they have All-Stars.

"But we play hard. That's a good series for us. I'm happy for the guys."

For the third time in as many days, the Padres (74-81) got another strong performance from a starting pitcher, as Ian Kennedy (12-13) took a three-hit shutout into the seventh inning before eventually allowing a two-run home run to Chris Dominguez for his first big league hit.

"I executed pitches," said Kennedy, who allowed two runs on five hits in 6 2/3 innings with one walk and five strikeouts. "I'm getting ahead of guys and staying on top of my fastball."

Kennedy's seventh-inning strikeout of Hunter Pence gave him a career-best 200 strikeouts and allowed him to become the first Padres pitcher to reach that mark since Jake Peavy did so in 2007, when he had 240 strikeouts. Peavy won the NL Cy Young Award that season.

Kennedy's start followed gems by Odrisamer Despaigne (seven shutout innings) on Friday and Andrew Cashner (two runs in eight-plus innings) on Saturday.

"We've pitched really well," Black said.

San Francisco pitcher Ryan Vogelsong (8-12) didn't allow a hit until Seth Smith doubled to start the fifth inning. That hit directly led to the Padres' first run, as Smith later scored on Alexi Amarista's sacrifice fly to center field, his eighth RBI during the first seven games of this homestand.

Leading, 1-0, the Padres added four runs in the sixth inning, two on outs -- a sacrifice fly by Yasmani Grandal and a ground-ball out by Rene Rivera. Cameron Maybin added a two-run single.

A throwing error in the inning by third baseman Pablo Sandoval led to two unearned runs.

The Padres added three more runs in the seventh inning, two on a double by Grandal and one more on a single by Rivera.

The Padres are now 46-32 at Petco Park this season.

"This is a tough place. They have a good staff and you have to play your best ball. We didn't do it. They outplayed us and that's the bottom line," said Giants manager Bruce Bochy.

Vogelsong allowed four runs, two earned, on four hits in five-plus innings. He walked one and struck out five.

Amarista saved a run from scoring in the fifth inning when he smothered a ball up the middle off the bat of Vogelsong that was headed into center field. Vogelsong was credited with a single but the Giants left the bases loaded as Gregor Blanco flied out to center field.

The Giants (84-71) are now tied with the Pirates for the Wild Card lead and will likely face each other Oct. 1, though if the teams end up tied, the Pirates -- who own the tiebreaker -- would host that game.

Corey Brock is a reporter for MLB.com. Keep track of @FollowThePadres on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Kluber racks up Ks; Tribe keeps pace in Wild Card race

Cleveland ace makes it back-to-back starts with 14 strikeouts

Kluber racks up Ks; Tribe keeps pace in Wild Card race play video for Kluber racks up Ks; Tribe keeps pace in Wild Card race

MINNEAPOLIS -- Inside Cleveland's clubhouse, the players call it punching tickets. Led by Corey Kluber, strikeouts have been piling up at a record pace for the Indians this season, and all the punchouts have helped the club avoid being knocked out of the playoff race.

On Sunday afternoon, Kluber was at it again, slicing his way through the Twins' lineup in an overpowering 7-2 victory at Target Field. With 14 strikeouts, Cleveland's Cy Young Award candidate helped guide the Tribe to a series win over the Twins to wrap up a three-city swing through Detroit, Houston and Minnesota with a 5-5 ledger.

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"He understood not only the idea that we have to win," Indians manager Terry Francona said, "but his responsibility, knowing what's ahead of us."

The win kept the Indians (81-74) within earshot of the American League's second Wild Card spot with a critical three-game (plus the conclusion of the Aug. 31 suspended game) series with the Royals beginning Monday. Cleveland sits 3 1/2 games back of Kansas City in the Wild Card race, which has the A's, Mariners and Yankees in the mix, too.

Kluber turned in eight innings and limited the Twins to two runs along the way, earning his 17th win of the season in the process. The right-hander struck out at least 14 batters for the second consecutive game, which is a feat that had not been accomplished by an Indians pitcher since 1968 (done twice that year by Sam McDowell).

Before Kluber did so on Sunday, the last Major League starter to have at least 14 punchouts in back-to-back games was Randy Johnson in 2004. That feat has only been done 15 times (nine pitchers) in the past 100 seasons. Other starters on that exclusive list include Pedro Martinez, Rogers Clemens and Bob Gibson, among others.

Kluber said the time will come when he allows himself to reflect on being included in such elite company.

"When the year's over," Kluber said, "that's stuff that you'll take a second to look at and appreciate. But, right now, it's not important. The important thing right now is that we got the win. That's what we need to keep going."

With at least two strikeouts in the first six innings against the Twins, Kluber also notched at least two strikeouts in 13 straight frames, dating back to his outing on Tuesday in Houston. In that start against the Astros, Kluber initially set a career high with 14 strikeouts in seven innings of work.

Kluber's effort helped him pass Detroit's David Price to reclaim the AL lead in strikeouts with 258 on the season, becoming just the fifth pitcher in Indians history to reach at least 250 in a single campaign. Bob Feller, Herb Score, Luis Tiant and McDowell are also on that short list.

"The stuff is good," Indians center fielder Michael Bourn said. "But his thought process along with it is what separates him."

As a staff, Cleveland also established a new single-season strikeout record with 1,391 this year, breaking last year's record (1,379). The Indians also set extended a Major League record on Sunday by striking out at least 12 batters for the sixth straight game.

"I think it's maybe a reflection on the kind of stuff we have on our staff," Kluber said of all the strikeouts this season. "We've got some guys with some good arms and some good stuff to put people away. A lot of times, when we get an opportunity to put guys away, we take advantage of it."

Kluber has routinely worked with low run support all year, but that was not the case this time around.

Facing Twins righty Anthony Swarzak, who was making his second spot start in a row, Cleveland struck for five runs (three earned) through the first five innings. Jose Ramirez and Michael Brantley knocked in a run apiece in the third inning and Cleveland benefited from two errors and a balk to tack on three more runs in the fifth.

Ramirez (sacrifice fly) and Brantley (RBI single) then extended Cleveland's lead to 7-2 against Minnesota's bullpen in the sixth inning.

"We were able to give him some support," said Bourn, who went 3-for-5 with three runs scored. "He kept them off-balance. He worked both sides of the plate and that's always a plus. He's fun to watch and fun to play behind. He's pitching with confidence, but he's also calm while he's pitching."

That offensive showing more than overcame the few times Kluber flinched against Minnesota. Chris Herrmann delivered an RBI double for the Twins in the second inning and Danny Santana added a run-scoring double in the fifth, but that was hardly enough against Cleveland's resident strikeout specialist.

"He has great command of three of his pitches," Twins second baseman Brian Dozier said. "He has electric stuff and is a high strikeout guy. If you get a pitch to hit, you can't really miss it against that guy. He's a big swing-and-miss guy."

Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, and follow him on Twitter @MLBastian. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Braves' postseason chase ends with loss to Mets

Santana allows five runs over five innings as New York finishes sweep

Braves' postseason chase ends with loss to Mets play video for Braves' postseason chase ends with loss to Mets

ATLANTA -- Now that the Braves have bid adieu to any thought of playing in October, they have started to provide answers that are indicative of the genuine frustration they have felt over the past few months. This proved to be the case with Ervin Santana, who took his lumps during Sunday afternoon's 10-2 loss to the Mets and then talked about how hard it is to pitch with the support of an offense that has been as abysmal as Atlanta's.

"It's tough because we haven't been playing well lately," Santana said. "We have our confidence up, but at the same time, you have to throw a complete-game shutout or something like that to get a win. It's pretty tough."

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Given that he spotted the Mets a 5-0 lead through the first four innings and ended up completing just five innings, this might not have been the most appropriate day for Santana to point his finger at the offense. But those who have watched the Braves offense most of this season likely understand the level of frustration that every member of the Braves starting rotation has experienced.

Santana's decision to express his feelings might have also had something to do with the fact that the Braves were officially eliminated from the Wild Card race because they were swept by the Mets and the Pirates won on Sunday.

The Braves would certainly like to prevent the Pirates from celebrating the clinching of a Wild Card spot while they spend the next four days playing in Atlanta. Just last week, the Nationals celebrated at Turner Field after clinching the National League East.

"We can't really worry about elimination if we're not winning ballgames," Braves third baseman Chris Johnson said. "It's pointless. We just have to come in, work hard and try to get better these next [seven] games."

The Braves have scored two runs or fewer in 15 of their past 25 games and 11 of their past 18. They have seen their starting pitchers produce a 3.47 ERA in the 26 games played dating back to Aug. 23. But because they have averaged just 2.3 runs per game, they've gone 8-18 during this span.

"If you're a starting pitcher, you're going to have that on your mind when you see that we're not scoring any runs," Santana said. "It's tough for us because when we're playing like this and you give up two or three runs, you know it's going to be a tough game."

With their eighth loss in the past nine games, the Braves dropped to 4-14 in September. They stand just a half-game ahead of the third-place Mets and five games in front of the last-place Phillies.

The Braves began this month by being on the wrong end of a combined no-hitter completed by the Phillies. Though Mets starter Jacob deGrom never really got close to matching this accomplishment by himself, he at least flirted with it as he proved perfect through Sunday's first four innings. But after looking dominant throughout that stretch, the rookie right-hander surrendered consecutive singles to Justin Upton and Chris Johnson during a two-run fifth inning that included Emilio Bonifacio drawing a four-pitch, bases-loaded walk.

After getting off track in the fifth, deGrom escaped the bases-loaded threat by notching the third of the career-high four strikeouts Phil Gosselin produced. deGrom, who exited after the sixth inning, notched eight of his 10 strikeouts through the first four innings. The 26-year-old hurler has produced a 1.06 ERA over the five starts he has made dating back to Aug. 29.

"We had a chance, we got to him in the fifth inning in a 4-0 game and scored a couple runs," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "If we had gotten a couple more runs, it might have been a different ballgame."

Santana surrendered a leadoff double to Matt den Dekker that led to a first-inning run and he surrendered a pair of singles as the Mets gained a 2-0 lead in the second. But most of his damage was incurred during an ugly fourth inning that included Christian Bethancourt allowing a run to score on a passed ball. B.J. Upton also airmailed his throw to the plate on Anthony Recker's sacrifice fly. Then to add to the frustration Ruben Tejada hit a solo homer.

Now the Braves have to look toward this week's series against the Pirates with the desire to play for pride and the integrity of the game. This four-game set will certainly draw interest from the Brewers, who are still fighting for a Wild Card spot.

"Those are meaningful games for the Pirates," Gonzalez said. "We need to come out and battle and give the teams that are behind them an opportunity to get in. That's how I look at these last four games at home."

Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Ozuna sprains right ankle; no timetable for return

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MIAMI -- Making it to the end of the season healthy is becoming a real challenge for the Marlins. The latest major injury occurred in the seventh inning of Sunday afternoon's 2-1 loss to the Nationals when center fielder Marcell Ozuna went down with a right ankle injury.

Ozuna rolled his ankle on second base, and he was assisted off the field by trainer Sean Cunningham and manager Mike Redmond. The 23-year-old is second on the team in home runs (23) and RBIs (85).

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The Marlins announced Ozuna has a high right ankle sprain, and an X-ray came back negative.

On crutches and wearing a walking boot, Ozuna said he sprained a ligament and will need a couple of weeks to recover. If possible, he would like to get a chance to pinch-hit at some point in the final seven games, but that may be doubtful.

"We don't really have a timetable for him," Redmond said. "We'll see how he progresses over the next couple of days."

With right fielder Giancarlo Stanton already out with facial fractures, two-thirds of Miami's talented young outfield is now likely lost for the season.

"This is not good for us," Redmond said. "We can't really afford to lose anybody else out of that lineup. We're piecing it together and grinding it out already. I don't really know what to say. That's tough. That's another blow for us."

In 153 games, Ozuna is batting .269 with an on-base percentage of .315 and a .453 slugging percentage.

"The inning before I was saying to God, 'Thanks for giving me a good season. It wasn't done, but it was going to be OK. It was going to be all right.' Then, that happened," Ozuna said. "I was crying, and I said, 'Good season.' "

Ozuna had been batting cleanup since Stanton was struck on the face with a pitch at Milwaukee on Sept. 11.

Enrique Hernandez, who started Sunday in right field, switched to center after Ozuna's injury. Garrett Jones entered to play right.

Ozuna's injury came when he doubled off Stephen Strasburg with one out in the seventh inning. The ball was bobbled momentarily by Kevin Frandsen, and Ozuna raced to second.

Rather than slide, Ozuna slowed as he was reaching the base, and the ball was coming in to second baseman Asdrubal Cabrera.

"I was thinking the throw was going to the right side, and I was thinking, 'I got it,' " Ozuna said. "Let me run to second base to the left."

Ozuna's right foot caught the corner of the base, and the 23-year-old rolled his ankle in the process. He stumbled off the base, and to the ground, where he was tagged out by Cabrera.

Cunningham and Redmond quickly headed to check on the power-hitting center fielder, in pain on the ground.

Flanked by Redmond and Cunningham, Ozuna hobbled to the training room.

Ozuna is completing his first full season in the big leagues. As a rookie in 2013, his season ended in July after he injured his left thumb, requiring surgery, while making a diving catch at Colorado.

"This year I was good, and I wanted to end the season good," Ozuna said. "Now that happened."

Joe Frisaro is a reporter for MLB.com. He writes a blog, called The Fish Pond. Follow him on Twitter @JoeFrisaro. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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MLB.com Columnist

Richard Justice

Royals caught up in moment, eye division title

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If you're ever asked what's so special about September baseball, you can tell 'em to go watch the little game the Royals and Tigers played Sunday afternoon.

It was exhausting and tense, a season's worth of hard work seemingly on the line. It delivered in every way. Later, when someone asked about his players getting caught up in the moment, Royals manager Ned Yost had a quick answer.

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"I want 'em caught up in the moment," Yost said. "You gotta be caught up in the moment. This is great fun."

There you go.

Perfect.

Kansas City had lost the first two games of this series to fall 2 1/2 games behind Detroit with nine to play. Another loss would have put the Royals in a deep hole in the American League Central as a strange final week of the regular season begins.

The Royals are positioned to get one of the two AL Wild Card berths, but they've got their sights set on a division championship. That strange week begins Monday with the completion of a suspended game in which they trail the Indians, 4-2, in the bottom of the 10th inning.

Then it's back to regularly scheduled action. That's seven road games -- three more against the Indians and three against the White Sox.

Meanwhile, the Tigers are finishing at home with three against the White Sox and four against the Twins. If you're inclined to draw conclusions from the schedule, don't. When there's so much at stake, outcomes can be unpredictable.

That's what players and managers constantly remind themselves to focus on the game in front of them. The Royals won that game Sunday afternoon, beating the Tigers, 5-2, in front of another big, noisy crowd (37,212) at Kauffman Stadium.

"Today's game showed that we're not going away," Yost said. "They had that feeling this morning. They knew this was going to be a big game. They had a lot of confidence in themselves when they hit the field. We just go attack it a game at a time. There's nobody in this room that knows what's going to happen."

All it took was 5 1/3 gritty innings by Royals starter Jeremy Guthrie and 3 2/3 shutout innings from three Kansas City relievers. Guthrie threw 81 pitches, but in terms of stress, it probably felt like 125. It was the biggest game of the season for his team.

And it came against one of baseball's best offensive teams. Guthrie got the Tigers in order just once, that in the first inning. Detroit scored one run in the third inning and another in the fourth. But it left runners in scoring position in the second, fourth, sixth and seventh innings.

Guthrie surely attempted to control only the things he could control, and he succeeded in doing that. But he also knew that a 29-year playoff drought was in play and that years of work by general manager Dayton Moore went toward this moment.

It was the final scheduled regular-season game at Kauffman Stadium, and it had all the tension and emotion and all the expectations of a postseason game.

"We've been thinking about [this] since we got drafted," first baseman Eric Hosmer told Royals television announcer Joel Goldberg after the game.

Yost began the day by penciling Billy Butler onto his lineup card at designated hitter. Butler is one of the franchise rocks, one of the people that has helped rebuild baseball in Kansas City.

But these last few weeks have been terrible for Butler. He began the day in a 2-for-32 slump and had found himself riding the bench at times down the stretch.

Smart move by the skipper. Butler drove in the first run of the game in the first inning with a single and got another scoring rally started in the bottom of the seventh with a single.

"We're having a lot of fun, and you guys are a big part of it," Butler told Goldberg after the game, drawing cheers from the crowd. "We plan on being back here next week."

This is September baseball at its best. The three games drew better than 110,000.

At the moment, the Royals have baseball's best defense and one of its best bullpens. Their starting rotation has been solid all season.

All the Royals need is a teensy bit of offense, and on Sunday afternoon, they got enough to win their 84th game. Now, with four teams bunched together fighting for three available AL playoff berths, and with the Yankees and Indians still in the mix, every inning counts.

Welcome to the final week.

"You want to be able to enjoy it," Yost said. "You want to go out and play for these times. It boosts everything you do. It boosts your confidence. It boosts your morale. It boosts your focus."

Richard Justice is a columnist for MLB.com. Read his blog, Justice4U. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Dominant Strasburg helps Nats sweep Fish

Schierholtz's triple enough as ace tosses seven scoreless innings

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MIAMI -- The postseason is just over a week away, and even though they've secured a spot in the postseason, the Nationals haven't let up on their opponents. Washington earned a 2-1 win over the Marlins on Sunday to sweep them in four games and end their 11-game road trip with a 9-2 mark.

And they did it behind starter Stephen Strasburg, who hasn't allowed a run in his past two starts spanning 14 innings. His performance coupled well with the way Washington starters performed on the road in this last stretch -- the rotation allowed just 12 earned runs in 71 1/3 innings over the last 11 games.

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"Good road trip for us against some teams that had been playing well, and especially here in a place where they play very good at home," Nationals manager Matt Williams said. "We won some close ones. Pitching was good. That certainly will keep you in any ballgame. You have those guys toe the rubber everyday, you got a chance. We did enough to win, which is good."

Strasburg was almost flawless through the first five innings. He got his first batter of the game out on a strikeout, and even though he issued a walk on four straight balls to the next batter, a double play erased any threat the Marlins had in the first.

The second inning was his toughest, as it took him a total of 21 pitches to work around a leadoff walk and an infield single. But from then on, Strasburg shut down the Marlins. He retired 16 of the last 18 batters he faced -- and all but two of the outs were on the ground.

Strasburg exited the game after seven innings, having struck out five and allowing three hits. He needed just 84 pitches to get through it. For a pitcher who's never pitched 200 innings at the Major League level until this year, the way Strasburg has performed makes it seem like he won't tire any time soon.

"The indicator is that his body feels good, his legs are strong and he works really hard in between starts," Williams said. "He's crisp, he's throwing strikes and he feels good about it. Any more than that you couldn't ask for."

Added catcher Jose Lobaton: "The way he's throwing right now, that's the way that everybody wants to see. Today's strike zone command was really good on both sides. … That's the way you want to be. He was really fun to catch today, and hopefully he can stay there and we got a pretty good battle for the postseason."

To back up Strasburg, the Nationals put up two runs in the fifth inning. It was the bottom of the order, which was full of backups as Washington played its 17th game in 17 days, that kicked off the scoring against Marlins starter Nathan Eovaldi.

Lobaton led off with a bloop double into left field that Christian Yelich couldn't come up with on a diving attempt. Then Nate Schierholtz, who started for Jayson Werth in right field, hit a ball into the right-center-field gap for a stand-up triple.

With the count full and one out, Anthony Rendon drove Schierholtz in on a stinging double up the third-base line for his 65th extra-base hit of the season. He was, however, left stranded.

The Nats only managed one more hit after that inning, but with Craig Stammen throwing a scoreless eighth inning and Rafael Soriano coming in to close out the game for the first time since he blew a save on Sept. 5, that was all Washington would need.

Soriano's outing wasn't perfect, though. Pinch-hitter Reed Johnson smoked a ball to deep center field for a leadoff double, and instead of keeping the ball down to get the next batter, two straight flyballs brought Johnson in to break the shutout.

Soriano settled down and was able to record his 32nd save of the season.

"I think the only problem that he had today with the double, he was behind the count and it's easier to get a quick swing," Lobaton said. "That ball was down and [Johnson] got it pretty good. After that, [Soriano] was able to control himself and he finished the game. That's the important thing, that he saved the game and he did it good. I think he's getting better. He's working, and we're gonna be here for him."

After Los Angeles outlasted the Cubs for a victory on Sunday, Washington's lead stands at 2 1/2 games over the Dodgers for the best record in the National League.

Maria Torres is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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MLB.com Columnist

Phil Rogers

Tenacious Dodgers getting it done

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CHICAGO -- Let's hear it for the Dodgers. They're doing one of the toughest things in sports -- winning when you're supposed to win.

They've wrapped up a playoff spot for the second year in a row under Don Mattingly, and they head home positioned to nail down an National League West title, possibly as early as Tuesday. They haven't started celebrating and, in reality, may not feel like there's reason to party until they've won a couple of postseason series.

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But like the Nationals and maybe the Cardinals, they're a team that could roll through the NL Division Series and the NL Championship Series without anyone considering them a surprise. That's an accomplishment in itself.

Sure, the Dodgers have become the biggest spenders in baseball. But you can't win just by writing checks. Just ask the Yankees, Red Sox and Phillies. In fact, only five of the 12 teams that had the biggest payrolls on Opening Day are in line for the playoffs.

You've got to do a lot of other things right, and the Dodgers have done those things, both before the Mark Walter/Magic Johnson Guggenheim Partners group bought the team in 2012 and certainly in the 28 months since, with Stan Kasten -- an architect of the Braves and Nationals -- directing the operation.

The new ownership group inherited a sleeping giant and immediately awakened it with the mega-trade that brought Adrian Gonzalez (currently leading MLB with 112 RBIs) and others from Boston and by winning auctions for Zack Greinke, Hyun-Jin Ryu and Yasiel Puig. It was blessed with Clayton Kershaw but rewarded him, and their fans, by signing him to a $215 million contract that runs through 2020.

It updated Dodger Stadium in the proverbial blink of an eye and created its own TV network (although it hasn't yet resolved the impasse that is making it unavailable to many fans). Through it all, it stepped lightly and maintained organizational continuity by retaining general manager Ned Colletti and Mattingly, and maintained the organization's historical focus on scouting and player development. Just last week, Walter and his partners purchased the Oklahoma City RedHawks, who will become L.A.'s Triple-A affiliate.

Maybe Colletti should have traded for David Price, but to do so would have cost him one or two of his top prospects, and the Dodgers are holding onto shortstop Corey Seager, outfielder Joc Pederson and little lefty Julio Urias. That's smart, if not immediately rewarding. It's also smart to value icons like Tommy Lasorda, Vin Scully and Jaime Jarrin, and the Dodgers' new owners have done that, too.

Oh, one last thing. They got Sandy Koufax involved -- good for the team and great for fans of all 30 teams. Well, maybe 29, given the anti-Dodger leanings in San Francisco.

Speaking of the Giants, they stand 4 1/2 games back in the NL West entering the three-game series at Dodger Stadium starting Monday night. The Dodgers showed a bit of vulnerability in losing 16-2 and 10-4 in back-to-back games at Colorado, but they rebounded to win three of four from the Cubs. They finished their last trip of the season 6-4 and ended the road portion of the regular season 49-32, the best in the Majors.

"You can see why they're such a good club," Cubs manager Rick Renteria said. "They have quite an offensive group over there, and they have pitching, too."

The Dodgers are rarely dull. They broke out their styling-and-profiling side early in Sunday's 8-5 victory en route to two first-inning runs.

Puig, who singled, ran through third-base coach Lorenzo Bundy's stop sign when Gonzalez doubled into right field with one out. He scored easily, as Matt Szczur's throw was off line, and after flopping across home plate, he shot Bundy a quick glance, like he was saying, "What are you thinking?"

Hanley Ramirez crushed a Jacob Turner curveball for a double that banged high off the left-field wall with two outs. He thought the ball was heading into the seats before a 14-mph wind knocked it down, and as a result, he carried his bat almost all the way to the first-base bag.

One thing you can't question is that the Dodgers have started stinging the ball. Led by Kemp and Gonzalez, they are the highest-scoring team in the NL this month, averaging 6.2 runs in going 12-7. Kemp was a force throughout the four-game series at Wrigley Field, going 7-for-17 with two home runs and eight RBIs. He lost two other homers to the wind on Thursday.

After a so-so first half, Kemp has raised his batting average to .286 with 23 home runs and 84 RBIs.

"He's been great," Mattingly said. "Like a lot of our guys, it seems like they're stepping up, just like you talk about. Getting into this last month, you want your guys to step up. He's certainly been one of those guys."

But hardly the only one.

"Hanley all of a sudden is swinging better," Mattingly said. "Yasiel is swinging better. Dee [Gordon] is getting his hits. Adrian [Gonzalez] has been the same as all year long. Carl [Crawford] is on fire. [Juan] Uribe [is], we're all swinging good right now."

Mattingly's pitching staff has been tested all season by injuries, the current concern being the wait for Ryu to return from a strained shoulder. He threw on the side Sunday, and the hope is that he can make a post-clinching start next weekend so he can evaluated in game action. However, the team's anxiety level is lessened considerably by the knowledge that Kershaw and Greinke could pitch more than half of the staff's innings in October, as Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling did for the 2001 Diamondbacks.

Greinke starts on Tuesday against the Giants, followed by Kershaw on Wednesday. That could be the start of a stretch in which they combine to start seven of 10 games, if they wind up playing a five-game NLDS, with Kershaw starting Game 4 on three days' rest, as he did in 2013. That number could grow to 15 in 24 through the World Series.

The hay's not in the barn, but Scully is warning up his vocal cords to call a little more history. It's a good time to be a Dodger.

Phil Rogers is a columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Loss drops Mariners further back in Wild Card race

Iwakuma's recent issues continue, but club remains upbeat, optimistic

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HOUSTON -- Stellar pitching has kept the Mariners in the playoff chase all season, but fatigue seems to be a growing concern as Hisashi Iwakuma saw his late-season struggles continue in an 8-3 loss to the Astros on Sunday, dropping Seattle 1 1/2 games back in the American League Wild Card race.

Kansas City topped Detroit, 5-2, to move a game and a half ahead of the Mariners for the second AL Wild Card spot. Oakland beat the Phillies, 8-6, and holds a half-game lead over Kansas City and a two-game edge over Seattle for the first Wild Card position. The Mariners are 83-72 with seven games to go.

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"We just have to regroup," said catcher Mike Zunino. "Obviously this isn't the series we wanted to have here. Hopefully we can bounce back and string a few together in Toronto."

Iwakuma allowed six hits and four runs in 4 1/3 innings before giving way with a 4-3 deficit. The Astros slammed the door with a three-run homer by Jake Marisnick off Yoervis Medina in the seventh.

Since getting bounced early in an Aug. 24 outing at Fenway, Iwakuma has posted a 9.12 ERA in his last six starts with 26 runs in 25 2/3 innings. The 33-year-old standout, who was fourth in the AL Cy Young voting last year, said he's fine physically, but acknowledged almost all pitchers have to push through things at this point in the season.

"I'm physically healthy. There's no issue with that," Iwakuma said through interpreter Antony Suzuki. "This late in the season, we're all tired and feel fatigued at times, so we're trying to overcome that. But like I said the other day in Anaheim, it's more the balance for myself. I'm still working on making my adjustments. I'm not able to get ahead early in the count and that's kind of messing up my game plan."

Coupled with a similar skid from fellow starter Chris Young and an elbow injury to rookie Roenis Elias, the Mariners' once-solid rotation has suddenly wobbled down the stretch.

"I'd be lying if I said I wasn't concerned," manager Lloyd McClendon said, echoing the same thought he had a day earlier after Young went just three-plus innings in a 10-1 loss. "[Iwakuma] had [an extra day of rest between starts] and I thought he'd be a lot sharper than he was today. He lacked command, really of all his pitches. We have to figure it out."

Iwakuma normally relies on pinpoint control and the second-best strikeout-to-walk ratio in the Majors, but he needed 88 pitches to get through 4 1/3 innings and has lasted less than five frames in four of his last six outings. Iwakuma walked a season-high three Sunday, including one intentional, but did have eight strikeouts.

"My lower body feels like it's diving more to the plate, which is actually keeping the ball up in the zone and not down like I'm usually pretty good at doing," Iwakuma said. "I'm not being able to get ground balls and that's causing a lot of issues. The last 5-6 starts I haven't been contributing, so I feel bad."

Iwakuma's record fell to 14-9 with a 3.54 ERA, the ERA having climbed from 2.57 in those last six appearances.

Houston scored three times in the fifth off Iwakuma to regain the lead after Michael Saunders briefly put Seattle on top with a two-run blast in the top of the frame off Astros starter Collin McHugh.

Saunders had started just one of Seattle's previous five games and was 2-for-18 since coming off the disabled list Sept. 8. But he went 2-for-3 with two RBIs and two runs Sunday, and his soaring two-run blast in the fifth was his seventh homer of the season.

"I got some swings today, but you know it's meaningless when you lose," Saunders said. "We're at a point in the season where we have one goal in mind and that's to win ballgames. Unless we do, nothing else matters."

After Iwakuma's departure, the Astros broke things open when Dominic Leone gave up a one-out single in the seventh to Dexter Fowler, Alex Presley singled off Charlie Furbush and Marisnick drove a 1-2 pitch from Medina into the left-field seats for his third homer of the year.

Seattle wound up 10-9 against Houston for the season and heads to Toronto for a crucial four-game set to close out an 11-game road trip.

With seven games left, including a season-ending three-game set at Safeco Field against the Angels, the Mariners certainly aren't out of the picture.

"Thankfully, our destiny is kind of in our own hands," said Saunders. "We are not three or four games back or have four or five teams ahead of us where we need a lot of teams to lose. We just need to go out and take care of business."

And as McClendon notes, still being in the playoff hunt with a week to go is a scenario pretty much anyone associated with the Mariners would have gladly accepted at the start of the year.

"Is the cup half empty or half full? I choose to be very positive," said McClendon. "We lost a tough series, but we're still in this thing. I guarantee you, there are a lot of teams that wish they were in our position right now. We'll take our chances."

Greg Johns is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB as well as his Mariners Musings blog. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Simon, homers help Reds leave St. Louis with win

Righty strong for six innings; Bruce hits two of four Cincy long balls

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ST. LOUIS -- Sunday Night Baseball has not been kind to the Reds over the years, but their overall track record in St. Louis has been even harsher. Add the sting of a miserable second half -- and a poor final road trip -- and plenty was stacked against them.

Alas, the Reds gave themselves a little shelter from some of their troubles with a season-high-tying four home runs and a 7-2 victory over the Cardinals on Sunday at Busch Stadium that snapped their six-game losing streak.

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"It was great," Reds manager Bryan Price said. "Every time one of the guys came to the dugout, I said, 'That's good timing.' We're not down, 7-1, when someone hits a solo shot. These were impactful homers."

Jay Bruce had two of the long balls and three RBIs, while Todd Frazier and Devin Mesoraco also went deep.

"Obviously every win you get is good," Bruce said. "To get some cushion for the pitchers there and end the final road trip of the year on a good note is something we can take a positive out of, go home and finish strong."

Held to four runs over a five-game stretch on the trip at one point, Cincinnati scored 11 runs in its last two games.

With losses on Friday and Saturday, the Reds still couldn't change the fact they have won only one of their last 22 series at Busch Stadium since August 2006, including the last eight in a row. The nine-game road trip concluded with a 2-7 record, while the 72-84 Reds avoided their 50th road loss. They also improved to 11-20 on Sunday nights.

The Cardinals, who had already clinched a playoff spot earlier in the day with a Brewers loss to the Pirates, are still trying to lock down the National League Central title. Playing the spoiler role was secondary for Price.

"We'd lost every game but one on this trip," Price said. "Winning a game -- it didn't matter who it was against -- was first and foremost."

Overcoming a calf cramp, Reds starter Alfredo Simon worked his third straight quality start as he seems to be finishing strong after several poor starts following his All-Star Game appearance. Simon allowed two earned runs and seven hits over six innings, with two walks and three strikeouts. With one start left in his season, he is 15-10 with a 3.34 ERA in a career-high 191 1/3 innings -- but 3-7 after the break.

Cardinals starter Lance Lynn kept the Reds hitless for the first 3 2/3 innings before Bruce lifted an 0-1 pitch to right field and gave his team a 1-0 lead.

There wasn't another Reds hit until one out in the sixth, when Frazier hit a 2-0 Lynn pitch to left field for his 27th homer and a 2-1 Cincinnati lead. It was the first time since Sept. 6 that the Reds had multiple home runs in a game. Two batters later, Brandon Phillips hit a two-out double to left field and then scored on a Bruce RBI single to left.

Simon, who gave up a run in the fifth, allowed back-to-back one-out doubles to Yadier Molina and Randal Grichuk in the bottom of the sixth that put St. Louis back to one run down.

The gap widened in the eighth when the Cardinals' bullpen faltered. Lefty Kevin Siegrist walked his first two batters, and his replacement, righty Sam Tuivailala, surrendered a three-run homer to left field by Mesoraco. It was Mesoraco's 24th homer of the season. Two batters later, with one out, Bruce went deep again for his 18th homer, sending a 2-2 pitch to right field.

"The Cardinals are hard to score runs against," Bruce said. "Lance Lynn has done a very nice job all year. To be able to get to him a little bit and continue to keep our foot on the gas and score some runs to kind of ease into a win there, it's nice."

Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Mark My Word, and follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Rua lifts Rangers with first career home run

Left fielder hits go-ahead shot off Angels reliever Street in ninth inning

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ANAHEIM -- There was Nick Tepesch showing some serious big league toughness against the best lineup in the American League. There was Ryan Rua hanging tough with two strikes against a great closer and hitting his first Major League home run in the top of the ninth.

Then there was Neftali Feliz, striking out the side in the bottom of the ninth -- including his old nemesis David Freese -- to give the Rangers a 2-1 victory over the Angels on Sunday afternoon.

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Feliz was bringing it with the effort and intensity that he showed when he was the Rangers' closer in 2010-11 before Tommy John surgery. Hitting 95-97 miles per hour on the radar gun, Feliz recorded his 11th save. He hasn't allowed a run since Aug. 20.

"He's back," interim manager Tim Bogar said after the Rangers finished taking two of three from the Angels while going 5-1 on their last road trip and winning for the eighth time in their last nine games.

There are some good things coming out of the Rangers' late-September surge beyond the window-dressing items of no longer having the worst record in baseball or being in jeopardy of losing 100 games. Several of those things were on display Sunday afternoon in a hard-fought game against a team that has won the division but still is going hard after home-field advantage in the playoffs.

One is Feliz continuing to convince the Rangers that he will be their closer next year. The Rangers have much work to do, but trying to address their closer situation is not on the list. If Feliz takes care of himself this winter, the Rangers have their closer.

"That's my job," Feliz said. "I feel like I'm 100 percent. I feel like I have a lot of life in my arm. The more I throw, the better I feel."

Another good sign is what Tepesch is showing on the mound. He didn't get the win but he did hold the Angels to one run in seven innings. He is only 2-3 in his last nine starts but with a 3.29 ERA and opponents hitting .260 off him. The Angels managed just four hits and two walks -- both intentional -- while Tepesch struck out three.

"I thought he did a great job using his fastball," Bogar said. "I like how aggressive he was with it. He got to play the offspeed stuff off it, but the key to his outing was his fastball."

Tepesch also didn't let himself get rattled in the first inning after hitting Mike Trout with a pitch. Tepesch also hit Trout with a pitch in Arlington earlier this month. This time Trout reacted angrily before stomping down to first base, but Tepesch didn't let it fluster him. He reacted by getting Albert Pujols on a fly to center and Howie Kendrick on a grounder to third.

"Obviously I'm not trying to hit him in that situation," Tepesch said. "You make a bad pitch, you try to erase it and flush it out and go after the next guy."

Tepesch did that in his pitching duel against the parade of Angels relievers being used to fill Garrett Richards' spot in the rotation. He left with the game tied at 1 as both teams scratched out a run in the sixth.

"I thought the outing was pretty good," Tepesch said. "You want to finish strong, but I'm trying to build off the outing before, learn from my mistakes and the good things and carry them into the next game."

The other good sign from Sunday is another young hitter shaking off a tough afternoon and delivering against a tough pitcher in a tough situation. Rua was 0-for-3 when he stepped to the plate with one out in the ninth inning and the score still tied.

"They were pounding me inside pretty much the whole game and I didn't take too many good swings," Rua said. "I was just trying to be short and quick on a pitch inside."

Street got ahead 1-2 in the count and then threw a tough slider that Rua fouled off. Then he threw a sinker and Rua hit it over the left-field wall.

"Rua's pitch was not an executed pitch, and that's the big leagues," Street said. "That's sometimes what happens."

That left it to Feliz to strike out the side in the ninth. That included Freese, who hit the game-tying triple in the ninth inning back in Game 6 of the 2011 World Series. That's a distant memory for Feliz.

The Rangers like what they see now, not only from him but in other key areas on Sunday afternoon.

T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields, and follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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More soreness in right shoulder plagues Profar

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ANAHEIM -- Rangers infielder Jurickson Profar, who has missed the entire season with a torn muscle in his right shoulder, has had another setback. Profar is experiencing more soreness in the shoulder and is not going to be able to play in the Arizona Fall League as the Rangers had hoped.

Profar was examined on Saturday by Dr. Neal ElAttrache in Los Angeles and will consult with Dr. Keith Meister later this week in Texas to determine the course of action.

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"It's just disappointing for him," interim manager Tim Bogar said. "It has been a long year, he's a young kid dealing with some injuries, it wears on you mentally. We just want the best for Jurickson. It's just disappointing."

Profar was supposed to be the Rangers' starting second baseman this season after Ian Kinsler was traded to the Tigers for first baseman Prince Fielder. But that never happened.

Profar came to Spring Training dealing with shoulder tendinitis and ended up with a torn muscle in the shoulder by the end of camp. The Rangers expected him to be out six to eight weeks but he reinjured the muscle in May and that brought his season to an end. Now he is facing more uncertainty.

"I'm good … am I supposed to cry?" Profar said. "I'm a man, I can face it all. Whatever it is … I know who I am."

With Profar out, rookie infielder Rougned Odor has taken over as the starting second baseman.

T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Rox finish final homestand with sweep of D-backs

Ynoa leads potent offense with three RBIs and Cuddyer homers

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DENVER -- Dominating at home has been manager Walt Weiss' objective since Day 1 on the job. And while it's easy to call it too little too late, the Rockies at least ended their season at Coors Field on the right note Sunday.

The Rockies topped the D-backs, 8-3, on Sunday to complete the four-game sweep of Arizona and extend their winning streak to six games. The win also pushes the Rockies record to 17-5 over their last three homestands of 2014.

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The Rockies outscored their opposition 161-109 over that stretch, including a 61-19 margin over their final six games at home.

"I'm glad we finished with a strong homestand as a little token of appreciation to the fans who have been hanging in there with us," Weiss said. "We feel like, soon enough, we're going to give them something to cheer about in September."

Colorado cruised out to a 6-0 lead in the first five innings as four different players logged RBIs. Brandon Barnes and Rafael Ynoa each had two-run doubles in that span with the latter of the two coming in the first at-bat after Randall Delgado took over for Wade Miley.

After the D-backs got two back in the sixth from Mark Trumbo's homer off right-hander Christian Bergman, the Rockies rallied for two more in the seventh.

One of those runs came in form of a home run from Michael Cuddyer to lead off the inning. The blast extended the Rockies streak of homering in home games to 22 straight, the longest such streak by a Major League team since the Phillies homered in 22 consecutive from July 24 to Sept. 3 in 2006.

"We're still playing the games hard and we're still playing good baseball," Cuddyer said. "That's big. It's good to see these guys still trying to play the game right."

Trumbo's first homer produced the only runs Bergman would allow, but it also put an end to his effective outing with two outs in the sixth. He finished his day striking out three without issuing a walk to collect his third career win.

Bergman was only at 67 pitches at the time he was pulled but Weiss didn't want to risk anything with a handful of lefties coming up in Arizona's lineup.

"Obviously I want to stay in the game," Bergman said. "It was still pretty early. But it is what it is."

Miley only lasted 4 1/3 for Arizona, surrendering six runs on eight hits and four walks.

"They came out ready to play," Miley said. "I guess we had a battle in the trenches for the last place team I guess and they really didn't want to be there and they took care of that."

The Rockies finish the season with 500 runs scored at Coors Field, their highest mark since they scored 517 at home in 2003.

Cody Ulm is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Royals draw most fans since 1991 season

Kauffman Stadium averages crowd of 24,154 per home game

Royals draw most fans since 1991 season

KANSAS CITY -- The Royals finished the regular-season home schedule with the biggest attendance since 1991 and not far under the 2 million mark at 1,956,482. That's an average of 24,154 for 81 home dates.

The three-game weekend series against the Tigers drew a total of 112,231, the last two games just shy of being sold out. There were four sellouts during the season.

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The 1991 club drew just over 2.1 million fans. The top year for attendance was '89, with 2,477,700. Kauffman Stadium has a seating capacity of 37,903.

Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Danks cruises with abundance of support

Lefty allows first hit in sixth; Semien, Avisail (twice) homer in rout

Danks cruises with abundance of support play video for Danks cruises with abundance of support

ST. PETERSBURG -- How can putting up a six-run inning ever be a bad thing? The White Sox might have found out on Sunday: When it puts your pitcher on ice in the middle of a no-hit bid.

Yes, Chicago blew open its series finale against the Rays -- a 10-5 win at Tropicana Field -- batting around in the sixth inning of a game between teams eliminated from postseason contention. Meanwhile, John Danks waited, waited, waited in the White Sox dugout, having yet to allow a hit after five innings. Sure enough, just after the layoff, during which he had been staked to a 10-0 lead, Danks surrendered his first hit, and then his only runs.

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But he wasn't about to think about things in those terms.

"Trust me, you'll never hear me complain about six runs in an inning," Danks said with a laugh. "Yeah, it was different, but I've been there before. I can't go out there and walk the leadoff leader like I did. That kind of set that inning off. ... I kind of dug my own grave with that one."

In 2008, Danks lost a no-hitter against the Red Sox in the seventh inning.

"Anyone that says they don't know what's going on is lying to themselves," Danks said. But, he also "definitely knew we had a five, six, seven, eight-run lead -- was able to maybe pitch a little different."

A one-out double by Brandon Guyer broke up the no-hitter in the bottom of the sixth, and Danks later allowed an RBI groundout to Kevin Kiermaier and an RBI infield single to Wil Myers. The veteran left-hander exited after the inning, having allowed just the two hits and two runs.

Danks cruised through the first five innings, even getting some of the trademark defensive support that always seems to back a no-hitter. Second baseman Carlos Sanchez made a fine play up the middle in the third inning, running down Curt Casali's ground ball and throwing him out at first to prevent an infield hit. And Dayan Viciedo ran down Sean Rodriguez's slicing fly ball in the right-field corner to end the fifth, juggling the ball in his glove before holding on for the third out.

By the sixth, the White Sox had pushed the game so far out of hand that the Rays began pulling their starters. After Chicago's six-spot, Nick Franklin pinch-hit for Ben Zobrist, and Kiermaier pinch-hit for Evan Longoria.

"All things considered," White Sox manager Robin Ventura said, "you'd rather have a six-run inning than take your chances out there trying to throw a no-hitter."

The Sox rudely greeted Rays starter Nate Karns, who was making his second start with Tampa Bay, and were just as rude to Alex Colome when he came in in relief.

"I just tried to stay out there as long as I could and be effective as long as I could," Karns said.

That wasn't very long, though, and he wasn't very effective. In his first game of the season, Karns had shut out the potent Blue Jays on two hits over seven innings, but on Sunday, Chicago knocked around the right-hander for six runs in five-plus frames. Chicago hit three long home runs off Karns -- two solo shots by Avisail Garcia and a three-run blast by Marcus Semien.

"I think it was a case of Avisail Garcia -- the bat in his hand was our problem," Rays manager Joe Maddon said.

When Colome stepped in for Karns with no outs in the sixth after Garcia's second homer and a single by Viciedo, he didn't fare any better. Colome allowed four runs on four hits and a walk before he could get out of the inning, and when the dust had settled, the White Sox were up by double digits.

So once the Rays got their hit off Danks, Ventura felt comfortable taking him out after 86 pitches, choosing to not push his starter at this point in the season.

"We're not gonna extend him," Ventura said. "At that point, he's done his job."

But what if there had still been a zero in the Rays' hit column?

"Oh, he would have been out there," Ventura said.

David Adler is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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