Clinching Day

The Cincinnati Reds had a chance to clinch the National League Central title while out on the road this past weekend. However they returned home needing just one win to win the title for the first time since 1995. Though the Reds scored in the 1st inning against the visiting Houston Astros, the Astros scored two runs in the top of the 2nd inning, with their final run coming on a suicide squeeze executed perfectly by Wandy Rodriguez.

The Reds would tie the game in the bottom of the 6th inning. Rodriguez for the Astros allowed two runs on four hits over six innings while striking out eight (though he walked four). Reds starter Edison Volquez allowed just those two runs on seven hits through six innings while striking out eight. The Reds bullpen threw three perfect innings of relief. With the game tied at 2-2 in the bottom of the 9th inning, Jay Bruce led off the inning against Astros left-handed reliever Tim Byrdak. Bruce hit the first pitch from Byrdak over the centerfield wall for a walk-off homerun (his second walk-off of his career).

The walk-off was even more special as the Reds clinched the NL Central title on that blast. It was the 5th time in MLB history that a player has hit a walk-off homerun to send their team to the postseason (the last time was in 2004). It was the Reds 22nd victory in their final at-bat and what a fitting way to head into the postseason. “I really can’t dream of hitting a walk-off to win the division,” Bruce said as he was drenched from the celebration. “It’s unbelievable. It’s a great team. I’ve been so happy to be around it. It’s been awesome.”
The Rays Dugout celebrates

The Rays Dugout celebrates

The Tampa Bay Rays received another dominant pitching performance from CY Young hopeful David Price, a day after he and Evan Longoria blasted the lack of fan support at Tropicana Field. With an announced attendance of a little over 17,000 (the Trop seats 45,000), Price shut down the visiting Baltimore Orioles for eight innings. He allowed just six hits while striking out eight (he did not walk a batter). The Rays offense went to work against Orioles starter Brad Bergesen. Carlos Pena hit a solo homerun in the 4th inning while Carl Crawford hit a solo homerun in the 5th inning. Bergesen allowed five runs on six hits and three walks over five innings.

Rays closer Rafael Soriano came on in the 9th inning and struck out two, including Adam Jones to end the game and set off the playoff clinching celebration. The team, like the Reds, paraded around the field shaking hands with fans and spraying many with champagne. The Rays have reached the postseason in two of the last three seasons. The Rays still hold a ½ game lead over the NY Yankees in the American League East and a two game lead over the Minnesota Twins for the best record.

“I felt like I needed to come out and throw well for our team and throw well for our fans and throw well for the city of St. Pete. That was big for us. We came out and hit the ball well, we played good defense and it was a good game,” Price said after the clincher (and referring to his comments on Twitter).

CC Sabathia was looking to rebound from his last start against the Rays (and the Yankees struggles with their pitching staff). Sabathia helped his CY Young chances as he won his AL-leading 21st game by allowing just one run on three hits through 8.1 innings in Toronto. Sabathia shut down the potent Blue Jays lineup as the lone run came on a Travis Snider homerun in the 3rd inning (Snider collected two of the team’s three hits). Blue Jays rookie Kyle Drabek was solid as he allowed three runs on five hits over six innings. Drabek has yet to win a game in three MLB starts, but has only received four runs of support.
The Young Yankees celebrate

The Young Yankees celebrate

Yankees closer Mariano Rivera came into the game with one out in the 9th inning and threw just six pitches to finish off the playoff clinching victory. Manager Joe Girardi and his coaching staff all hugged in the dugout while the players shook hands on the field (though they fully celebrated in the clubhouse). It was the Yankees 15th playoff berth in 16 seasons.

With both the Rays and Yankees winning, the Boston Red Sox were officially eliminated from the postseason. The Red Sox lost in the bottom of the 9th inning to the Chicago White Sox as rookie Dayan Viciedo singled with two outs and runners at second and third base for the 5-4 walk-off victory. The line-drive single was just out of the reach of Red Sox diving left fielder Daniel Nava.