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Pirates in playoffs

Cards eliminate Nats; Sox best Blue Jays

Published: Monday, Sept. 23, 2013 11:50 p.m.CST

By The Associated Press

The Pittsburgh Pirates are headed to the playoffs for the first time in 21 years, clinching at least a National League wild card Monday night when they beat the Cubs 2-1 in Chicago and the Washington Nationals lost at St. Louis.

It will be Pittsburgh’s first trip to the postseason since Barry Bonds, Jim Leyland and Co. won three straight NL East titles from 1990-92. Bonds then left for San Francisco as a free agent, and the small-budget Pirates piled up 20 consecutive losing records – the longest streak in the four major professional sports.

Starling Marte hit a tiebreaking homer in the ninth inning at Wrigley Field, and the Pirates threw out a runner at the plate for the final out.

The Pirates doused each other with champagne in the visitors’ clubhouse once St. Louis’ 4-3 win over the Nationals became final.

The Cincinnati Reds also clinched at least a wild-card berth, when they beat the New York Mets 3-2 in 10 innings. The Pirates and Reds, both 90-67, trail St. Louis by two games in the NL Central with five to go.

The Pirates snapped a 1-all tie when Marte sent a drive off Kevin Gregg (2-6) with two outs in the ninth into the left-field bleachers.

They preserved the victory on the final out when center fielder Andrew McCutchen picked up Ryan Sweeney’s bloop single after the ball hit off right fielder Marlon Byrd’s glove and threw to first baseman Justin Morneau, positioned just in front of home plate. Morneau made the relay to catcher Russell Martin, who applied the tag on Nate Schierholtz. Schierholtz had tried to score from first base.

Still on his knees, Martin held the ball over his head in jubilation.

Cardinals 4, Nationals 3: Carlos Beltran homered, Adam Wainwright earned his 18th win and the Cardinals eliminated the Nationals from playoff contention.

Looking for their first NL Central title since 2009, the Cardinals maintained a two-game lead over Cincinnati and Pittsburgh and reduced their magic number to four.

All three teams are headed to the postseason. The Reds and Pirates both won Monday night, clinching at least a wild-card berth when Washington lost.

White Sox 3, Blue Jays 2: Jose Quintana pitched into the eighth inning and rookie Marcus Semien hit his first homer to lead the White Sox past the Toronto Blue Jays in Chicago.

Quintana (9-6), who entered the game with the most no-decisions in the American League at 17, allowed two runs on five hits in 7 1/3 innings. Addison Reed pitched the ninth inning to record his 39th save of the season.

Toronto starter J.A. Happ (4-7) threw 110 pitches in his five innings, allowing three runs and eight hits.

Semien’s homer in the second inning opened the scoring. With Dayan Viciedo on first, Semien hit an 0-2 pitch from Happ down the line and well over the fence for a 2-0 lead. Semien was called up on Sept. 4.

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