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Cardinals cap incredible run

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Published : Sept. 29, 2011 - 16:00

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HOUSTON (AP) ― Chris Carpenter and the St. Louis Cardinals completed one of baseball’s greatest comebacks, clinching the NL wild card Wednesday night with an 8-0 win over Houston and a later loss by Atlanta.

The Cardinals got their playoff spot when the Braves fell to Philadelphia 4-3 in 13 innings.

St. Louis trailed Atlanta by 10 1/2 games on Aug. 25. The Cardinals won 23 of their last 31 games.

The Cardinals will open the postseason on Saturday at NL East champion Philadelphia. In the other NL playoff matchup, Arizona visits Milwaukee.

Carpenter (11-9) struck out 11 and allowed two hits in his 15th career complete-game shutout as St. Louis kept up its improbable September charge.

“We had nothing to lose. We were already out of it,” Carpenter said. “People were telling us we were done. We decided to go out and play and not embarrass ourselves and do what we can. We played ourselves back into it.”

The Cardinals poured onto the field after Carpenter fielded J.D. Martinez’s weak grounder for the final out. The celebration was brief and muted, as the team raced into the clubhouse to watch the end of the game in Atlanta.

“It was exciting, there’s no doubt about it,” Carpenter said. “The way these guys have played the past month and a half has been amazing, every single night grinding, playing their butts off, not giving up.

“We continued to give ourselves an opportunity and now we are here.”

The teams entered Wednesday’s regular-season finales with 89-72 records.

Atlanta’s game started an hour earlier, but the Cardinals virtually took away any hope for a Houston victory in the first inning of their contest, jumping to a 5-0 lead against Brett Myers (7-14).

Albert Pujols and Lance Berkman drove in runs with singles, and David Freese doubled to left-center before Myers even recorded an out.
St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Chris Carpenter celebrates after his team clinched the National League wild card. (AP-Yonhap News) St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Chris Carpenter celebrates after his team clinched the National League wild card. (AP-Yonhap News)

Rays 8, Yankees 7

ST. PETERSBURG, Florida (AP) ― The Tampa Bay Rays clinched the AL wild card with a stunning rally Wednesday night, overcoming a late seven-run deficit and then beating the New York Yankees 8-7 on Evan Longoria’s home run in the 12th inning.

The Rays’ win came four minutes after Boston blew a one-run lead in the ninth at Baltimore and lost 4-3, causing a roar at Tropicana Field.

The Red Sox, who held a nine-game lead over the Rays in early September, and Tampa Bay began the final day of the regular season tied for the wild card.

Longoria hit a three-run homer in the eighth that capped a six-run burst. Pinch-hitter Dan Johnson’s two-out, two-strike solo homer in the ninth tied it for Tampa Bay.

Longoria won it with a one-out shot barely inside the left-field foul pole, finishing the comeback from a 7-0 margin.

Tampa Bay will open its best-of-five playoff matchup at Texas on Friday. The Yankees will host Detroit in Game 1 Friday night.

Longoria connected off Scott Proctor (0-3) to end it. Proctor was the Yankees’ 11th pitcher of the game ― they did not use all-time career saves leader Mariano Rivera, and Johnson hit his tying shot off Cory Wade.

The Yankees pulled their regulars throughout the game and finished with a lineup that looked more like a Triple-A team.

Moments before Tampa Bay won, it looked as if Boston would instead be going to the playoffs. The Orioles were down to their last strike in the ninth before scoring twice off Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon.

Mets 3, Reds 0

Blue Jays 3, White Sox 2

Rockies 6, Giants 3

Nationals 3, Marlins 1

Tigers 5, Indians 4

Orioles 4, Red Sox 3

Phillies 4, Braves 3

Rangers 3, Angels 1

Twins 1, Royals 0

Brewers 7, Pirates 3

Padres 9, Cubs 2

Dodgers 7, D-backs 5

A’s 2, Mariners 0