The Ottumwa Courier

AP Sports

September 24, 2013

Buc up! Pirates, Reds punch playoff tickets

Pittsburgh and Cincinnati punched their postseason tickets Monday night, so all five National League spots have been secured. The only thing left to sort out is the winner of the NL Central. Over in the AL, three of the five berths remain up for grabs. A quick look at baseball's playoff picture:

PARTY TIME IN PITTSBURGH: After two decades of constant losing, the Pirates finally did it: They're headed to the playoffs for the first time in 21 years, clinching at least an NL wild card when they beat the Chicago Cubs 2-1 and Washington lost to St. Louis.

Starling Marte hit a tiebreaking homer in the ninth inning, and Pittsburgh threw out a runner at the plate for the final out. Once the Nationals' game was over, Pirates players rejoiced with bubbly, beer and a group photo in the cramped clubhouse at Wrigley Field. They sang Journey's "Don't Stop Believing" and chanted "MVP! MVP!" while dousing Andrew McCutchen.

"The people of Pittsburgh have been waiting a long time," said Neil Walker, who also homered.

ON DECK: Next to celebrate could be the Detroit Tigers, who play at Minnesota on Tuesday night. A win or a Texas loss secures a playoff trip for the Tigers. A victory and a loss by Cleveland gives Detroit its third straight AL Central title.

TOUCH 'EM ALL: Alex Rios hit for the cycle as Texas routed Houston 12-0 to pull within a game of idle Cleveland for the second AL wild card with six remaining. Rios finished off his cycle with a triple to right-center in the sixth inning. The only other players to accomplish the feat this season were Angels star Mike Trout (May 21) and Houston's Brandon Barnes (July 19), both against Seattle.

SITTING PRETTY: Tampa Bay leads the AL wild-card race by a game over the Indians after finishing a four-game sweep of Baltimore, now on the brink of elimination. Chris Davis hit his major league-best 52nd homer for the Orioles, who lost All-Star third baseman Manny Machado to a leg injury in the seventh.

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