- Associated Press - Tuesday, September 23, 2014

ATLANTA (AP) - Gerrit Cole retired the final 17 hitters he faced, and the surging Pittsburgh Pirates clinched a spot in the playoffs with a 3-2 win over the free-falling Atlanta Braves on Tuesday night.

The Pirates’ win combined with Milwaukee’s loss to Cincinnati assured Pittsburgh of no worse than an NL wild card. The Pirates wrapped up their berth exactly one year after clinching a place in the 2013 playoffs.

They reacted to the final out on Tuesday with little emotion. The Pirates exchanged high-fives in a line on the field before sharing hugs in front of their dugout.

Starling Marte gave Pittsburgh the lead with a sixth-inning double. The Pirates, who are still chasing St. Louis for the NL Central title, have won 11 of 13.

ROYALS 7, INDIANS 1

CLEVELAND (AP) - Rookie Yordano Ventura blanked Cleveland’s punchless offense for seven innings as the Kansas City Royals kept pressure on first-place Detroit in the AL Central with a win over the Indians.

The hard-throwing Ventura (14-10) allowed four singles and threw a 100 mph fastball on his 104th pitch.

Salvador Perez’s two-out, two-run double off Danny Salazar (6-8) put the Royals ahead 5-0 in the fifth and they turned their attention to the left-field scoreboard to monitor the Tigers’ score. Kansas City entered one game out of first and with a grasp on one of the league’s two wild-card spots.

The Royals are closing in on their first postseason appearance since 1985, when they won their only World Series title.

At 86-71, Kansas City matched its win total from last season. It’s the first time the Royals have had consecutive seasons with at least 86 victories since 1977-78.

TIGERS 4, WHITE SOX 3

DETROIT (AP) - Miguel Cabrera’s RBI single in the bottom of the ninth lifted the Tigers to a key victory over the White Sox.

The win kept Detroit a game ahead of Kansas City atop the American League Central and dropped their magic numbers to five for the division and two for the postseason.

Ian Kinsler started the bottom of the ninth by bouncing a single over Conor Gillaspie’s head at third, and Jake Petricka (1-6) walked Torii Hunter. Cabrera then lined a single to left, with Kinsler scoring from second.

David Price took a three-hit shutout into the ninth. Adam Eaton singled, Alexei Ramirez doubled and Avisail Garcia hit a two-run single with one out. Paul Konerko singled with two out, moving Garcia to third and Marcus Semien followed with an RBI single.

Joe Nathan (5-4) then came on to get the last out.

ORIOLES 5, YANKEES 4

NEW YORK (AP) - Nelson Cruz hit his major league-leading 40th home run and the Orioles pushed Derek Jeter and the Yankees to the brink of playoff elimination, beating New York.

The Yankees fell five games behind for the second AL wild card with only five games left.

Jeter extended his hitting streak to seven games, but struck out on three pitches with a runner on first to end it. The retiring captain has two more home dates scheduled.

The AL East champion Orioles began the day 2 1/2 games behind the Los Angeles Angels, who played later at Oakland, for the best record in the league and home-field advantage for the entire postseason.

Cruz boosted his career high with a drive into the left-field seats to open the fifth inning, giving him 107 RBIs. He became the sixth Baltimore player to post a 40-homer season, topped by Chris Davis’ 53 last year.

NATIONALS 4, METS 2

WASHINGTON (AP) - Nationals center fielder Denard Span left in the third inning after making a diving, tumbling catch, and NL East champion Washington went on to a victory over the Mets.

The win boosted the Nationals’ push for home-field advantage during the National League playoffs. They began the day three games ahead of the Los Angeles Dodgers for the league’s best record with less than a week left in the regular season.

Span is a key player for the Nationals. A strong defensive presence and their leadoff hitter, he entered with the club’s highest batting average at .298 and most stolen bases with 31.

The player who replaced him, rookie Michael Taylor, doubled home Washington’s first run in the fifth.

BLUE JAYS 10, MARINERS 2

TORONTO (AP) - Dalton Pompey hit his first major league homer and the Blue Jays roughed up Felix Hernandez for a career worst-tying eight earned runs in a victory over the Mariners that further dented Seattle’s fading wild-card chances.

Edwin Encarnacion added a two-run shot and R.A. Dickey (14-12) allowed two runs over seven innings to win for the fourth time in five starts.

Seattle lost its fourth straight thanks to another poor effort by a starting pitcher. Mariners starters have failed to complete five innings in any of the past four games, allowing 27 earned runs over 14 2-3 innings in that span for an ugly ERA of 16.56.

The Mariners fell three games out of the second AL wild-card spot with five games remaining. Despite the win, Toronto was eliminated from playoff contention when Kansas City beat Cleveland.

RAYS 6, RED SOX 2

BOSTON (AP) - Ben Zobrist had three hits and drove in Tampa Bay’s first two runs during an eighth inning rally for the Rays in a win over the Red Sox.

Alex Cobb pitched seven strong innings and Matt Joyce added a solo homer in the ninth for the Rays in the series opener between the bottom two teams in the AL East.

Cobb (10-8) allowed just one run on five hits, striking out three and walking one.

Daniel Nava had an RBI double in the fourth for the Red Sox. It stood as the game’s only run until Tampa Bay got to Boston starter Clay Buchholz in the eighth.

Buchholz (8-10) had a shutout going through seven, but a leadoff walk and hit batter cost him in the eighth when the Rays rallied for five runs with two outs.

REDS 3, BREWERS 1

CINCINNATI (AP) - Johnny Cueto kept his hopes of a 20-win season in play, and Todd Frazier and Devin Mesoraco hit back-to-back homers, sending the Reds to a victory that pushed the Brewers to the verge elimination from wild card contention.

Cueto (19-9) gave up Carlos Gomez’s homer over eight innings. He’ll pitch Cincinnati’s final game on Sunday against Pittsburgh at Great American Ball Park.

The Reds haven’t had a 20-game winner since left-hander Danny Jackson in 1988. The last Reds right-hander to win 20 games was Sammy Ellis in 1965.

The Reds got the better of a matchup between teams with huge second-half fades.

Milwaukee led the NL Central for 150 days, but fell apart at the end. Up by 6 ½ games on June 28, the Brewers have gone 29-45 and fallen far behind Pittsburgh and San Francisco in the wild card race.

MARLINS 2, PHILLIES 0

MIAMI (AP) - Henderson Alvarez pitched into the eighth inning to outduel Cole Hamels and the Marlins beat the Phillies.

Alvarez (12-6) gave up five hits and struck out two over 7 2-3 innings to lower his ERA to 2.70. Jeff Baker and Casey McGehee had RBIs for the Marlins in the 2-hour, 20-minute contest.

Hamels (9-8) allowed seven hits and two runs in seven innings. He struck out four and walked one.

Alvarez issued a two-out walk to Carlos Ruiz in the top of the eighth inning, ending his night after 97 pitches as he was replaced by left-hander Mike Dunn. After Chase Utley singled, Dunn struck out Ryan Howard with runners on first and second to end the inning.

Steve Cishek pitched the ninth for his 38th save in 42 chances.

RANGERS 2, ASTROS 1

ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) - Nick Martinez pitched 6 2-3 scoreless innings and Robinson Chirinos homered to lead the Rangers to a victory over the Astros.

The Rangers won their third straight and 10th of their last 11 games. The Astros have dropped six of eight.

Martinez (5-11) got his first win at home and his first at night. The rookie right-hander went into the game 0-6 in eight starts at Globe Life Park in Arlington and 0-10 in 14 starts at night. He allowed five hits, no walks and struck out five.

Neal Cotts allowed a run in the ninth, earning his second save in nine opportunities.

Brett Oberholtzer (5-13) gave up Chirinos’ homer and an RBI single to Daniel Robertson, both in the fourth inning.

CUBS 4, CARDINALS 3

CHICAGO (AP) - Welington Castillo homered and drove in the winning run with a 10th-inning single, giving the Cubs a victory over the Cardinals that tightened the NL Central race.

St. Louis’ lead was reduced to 1 1/2 games over second-place Pittsburgh, which clinched a playoff berth by beating Atlanta. With four games to play, the Cardinals, who secured a postseason spot last weekend, still have a magic number of four to wrap up their second consecutive division crown.

Castillo finished 2 for 5 with three RBIs. Zac Rosscup (1-0) pitched a scoreless inning for his first major league win.

Pat Neshek (7-2) took the loss.

TWINS 6, DIAMONDBACKS 3

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) - Kyle Gibson matched a career high with eight strikeouts, Chris Parmelee hit a two-run single after entering the game for an injured Joe Mauer, and the Twins beat the Diamondbacks.

Trevor Plouffe added four singles and Aaron Hicks two hits and an RBI for the Twins.

After getting hit in the right elbow by Andrew Chafin (0-1) in the first inning, Mauer played defense in the second before coming out with a bruised elbow. The Twins say he is day to day.

Parmelee hit in Mauer’s spot and singled down the left-field line to drive in Hicks and Eduardo Escobar, giving Minnesota a 3-0 lead in the second.

That was plenty of support for Gibson (13-11), who allowed one run in seven innings and won for just the second time in his last eight starts.

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