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Braves clinch playoff berth; Tigers tie White Sox
Here’s how the pennant races look with eight days to go:
_ REDEMPTION: Chipper Jones and the Braves are back in the playoffs after missing out last season following a massive September collapse. Freddie Freeman hit a two-run homer in the bottom of the ninth inning that lifted Atlanta over Miami 4-3 on Tuesday night, clinching at least an NL wild-card berth for the Braves. The 40-year-old Jones, who plans to retire after the season, started the winning rally with a double.
_ ALL SQUARE: After chasing the White Sox for more than three weeks, Detroit finally forged a tie atop the AL Central when Anibal Sanchez threw a three-hitter in a 2-0 win over Kansas City. Hours earlier, Chicago lost 4-3 to Cleveland for its sixth defeat in seven games. The Tigers have made up three games in a week on the White Sox, who had been alone in first place since Sept. 3.
_ NEXT UP: Texas and Oakland resume their pivotal series Wednesday night after splitting a pair of one-run decisions. The A's trail the first-place Rangers by four games in the AL West but hold a two-game lead over the Angels for the league’s second wild card. Los Angeles faces Mariners ace Felix Hernandez in a late game.
_ ON THE MEND: Cincinnati will be without manager Dusty Baker for the rest of the week. Baker met with Reds players and revealed he suffered a mini-stroke in addition to being treated for an irregular heartbeat last week. The 63-year-old skipper hopes to return to the dugout next week as the NL Central champions try to earn home-field advantage throughout the postseason.
_ CLOSING IN: With seven games to play, St. Louis has a 4 1/2-game cushion over the Brewers and Dodgers in the race for the second NL wild card. Jaime Garcia pitched the defending champion Cardinals to a 4-0 victory at Houston. Milwaukee and Los Angeles both lost.
_ CHASE CHATTER: “There was never any doubt. We knew that last year was somewhat of a fluke.” _ Atlanta slugger Chipper Jones after the Braves, who blew a huge wild-card lead last September, punched their postseason ticket.
By Donald Lambro
Growth spikes are little more than trend-free anomalies
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