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A's clinch first postseason berth since 2014

Oakland hits four homers to celebrate punching postseason ticket
MLB.com @JaneMLB

SEATTLE -- The A's improbable season will extend to October.

By virtue of a Rays loss on Monday, the A's automatically punched a ticket to the postseason just minutes after first pitch in Seattle. Then they went bonkers and hit four homers to beat the Mariners, 7-3, and put an exclamation point on an extraordinary day, capping it with a champagne-soaked celebration.

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SEATTLE -- The A's improbable season will extend to October.

By virtue of a Rays loss on Monday, the A's automatically punched a ticket to the postseason just minutes after first pitch in Seattle. Then they went bonkers and hit four homers to beat the Mariners, 7-3, and put an exclamation point on an extraordinary day, capping it with a champagne-soaked celebration.

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They fumbled around empty beer bottles, in search of the next amid a jubilant scene that spelled out months-long perseverance.

Video: OAK@SEA: Treinen on clinching a postseason berth

"We've still got unfinished business, but man we earned this," outfielder Stephen Piscotty said. "Just like our manager, our fearless leader, said, we deserve this. Just kind of the hunger for the game and wanting to win. It's not found everywhere. This team just wants it. I feel like we want it more than other folks. We're gonna give it our best this postseason."

Shop for A's postseason gear

The sneaky A's look set for a date with the Yankees in the American League Wild Card Game on Oct. 3 but must make up ground if they want to host the affair at the Coliseum. New York holds a 1 1/2-game lead on the A's with five to play.

"There's still a little time left to digest this and move forward, but these guys have high aspirations and hope this isn't the only celebration that we have," A's manager Bob Melvin said. "Even if it doesn't happen where we play at home, these guys haven't been afraid to play on the road."

Video: OAK@SEA: Athletics talk clinching postseason berth

Melvin's A's last made a postseason appearance in 2014, when their season abruptly ended in heartbreak in a theatrical Wild Card tilt with the Royals. The road back has surely been rocky, making the return that much sweeter for these A's, who have sealed four playoff berths in the last seven years and nine in the last 19 under executive vice president of baseball operations Billy Beane and his crew.

Video: SEA@OAK: Athletics GM David Forst on A's clinching

"We had three tough years, and we've been through that before," A's general manager David Forst said. "But when you go through three tough years like that and people kind of count you out, and understandably so in a lot of cases, I'm proud that people throughout the organization stuck with it, that ownership trusted what we were doing, and that Bob gets the credit he does for turning this group into a postseason team."

They were hardly expected to be here; after they stumbled to three consecutive last-place finishes and entered the season with baseball's smallest payroll, they anticipated gradual improvement. On June 15, they were 11 1/2 games out of first place, their record a meager 34-36 and their postseason chances severely slim. Then they won their next five games. And 14 of 17. Then it was 40 of 54, a Cinderella tale in the making.

Video: OAK@SEA: Olson talks A's clinching postseason berth

The front office did its part by augmenting a weakened pitching staff midseason, swinging deals for starter Mike Fiers and relievers Jeurys Familia, Fernando Rodney and Shawn Kelley.

"Probably happened a little quicker than most people thought, but we've got some big-time players in that room," Melvin said. "This group is the best group I've had in all my years in managing. It's about just playing for the guy next to them, and that was kind of a theme we talked about, play for the guy next to you. It's more powerful than playing for yourself. That's what these guys do better than anybody."

Video: OAK@SEA: Athletics crush 4 home runs vs. Mariners

Following their 95th victory on Monday, which featured a go-ahead, two-run homer from Matt Chapman in the seventh inning, they improved to an MLB-best 61-26 since June 15. AL MVP candidate Khris Davis collected his Major League-leading 46th homer and 120th RBI in the game, and Jed Lowrie and Jonathan Lucroy also homered.

"I'm watching my dreams come true right now," said Davis, who has amassed 131 homers in three seasons with Oakland, more than any other MLB player in that span. "I'm just appreciative of the moment right now. It's amazing just to share it with my teammates and give them hugs and tell everybody that I'm proud of them and I'm proud to be with them."

The A's are baseball's best story, readying to take on the game's grandest stage well ahead of even their own schedule despite much adversity. Their rotation has been decimated by injuries, yet they've managed to stay afloat with a makeshift staff while employing a potent offense and a formidable bullpen, along with a steady defense in a wondrous season.

Video: Olson's RBI single in the 8th

"You can't fake talent over the course of 162 games, and we have that," Lowrie said, "and we pull for each other."

Video: OAK@SEA: A's President Dave Kaval on A's clinching

"They've been writing the story all year," Forst said. "There's 25-plus incredible stories out there of guys who contributed who weren't expected to, of guys who came back from injuries, guys who just got here a month ago and played a part. Anytime things come together like this, it's really special. I'm thrilled for Bob and his staff. It's a really special day."

UP NEXT
Lefty Brett Anderson (4-5, 3.96 ERA) will be on the mound for Tuesday's 7:10 p.m. PT tilt with right-hander Mike Leake (10-10, 4.10) and the Mariners at Safeco Field. Anderson has a 1.29 ERA in two starts against Seattle this season.

Jane Lee has covered the A's for MLB.com since 2010.

Oakland Athletics

Sox win record 106th, clinch Majors' best mark

Club assured of home-field advantage throughout the postseason
Special to MLB.com

BOSTON -- Dustin Pedroia played in just three games this season before his problematic left knee confined him to the dugout.

But Pedroia is by some distance the longest-tenured Red Sox player, the only member of the club with more than one World Series ring to his name -- and it was Pedroia who commanded the attention of the home clubhouse at Fenway Park late Monday night after an historic 6-2 win over the Orioles.

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BOSTON -- Dustin Pedroia played in just three games this season before his problematic left knee confined him to the dugout.

But Pedroia is by some distance the longest-tenured Red Sox player, the only member of the club with more than one World Series ring to his name -- and it was Pedroia who commanded the attention of the home clubhouse at Fenway Park late Monday night after an historic 6-2 win over the Orioles.

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Video: BAL@BOS: Betts talks 106th victory, home field

Pedroia didn't speak all that long. Nor did first-year manager Alex Cora, who played alongside Cora when the veteran second baseman was just breaking into the Major Leagues. But their message was about the same: This is a special Red Sox team.

"We should call timeout and enjoy this one," Cora said when he met with the media a few minutes later. "We know what we have to do in October, but to be able to do this, at this level, in this division, it is amazing."

Video: BAL@BOS: Cora talks Red Sox's franchise-best 106th win

Indeed, in the 118-year history of the Red Sox, no team had won 106 games in a season until Mookie Betts powered the American League East champs over the O's. The win moved this Red Sox team past its 105-win 1912 counterparts of Harry Hooper, Duffy Lewis and Tris Speaker -- and even further past the 104 games the Williams-led 1946 team won. Not since the 2001 Seattle Mariners had any team in Major League Baseball won more than 105 games in a season. Until this bunch.

Even more important, Monday's win secured for Boston the best record in Major League Baseball this season, ensuring home-field advantage through each round of the playoffs. Of the six previous seasons the Red Sox had at least a share of the best record in baseball, they won the World Series five times.

Video: BAL@BOS: Betts cranks a 2-run home run to deep left

"We have a great team, man," MVP candidate Betts said. "We're showing it."

Betts hit his career-best 32nd home run -- his third straight game with a homer -- and stole his 29th base. Steve Pearce and Brock Holt each doubled and scored as part of a four-run second inning capped by Betts' fireworks.

Video: BAL@BOS: Holt lines an RBI double to left in the 2nd

Nathan Eovaldi made a strong case for inclusion in Boston's playoff rotation, albeit against opposing hitters who weren't quite playoff caliber. The midseason acquisition struck out 10 and didn't issue a walk in five overpowering innings; the only run the Orioles scored came on a wild pitch in the fifth.

"I really had everything working today," said Eovaldi, whom the Red Sox acquired from Tampa Bay in late July. "I was able to locate the fastball up. I had a really good feel for my curveball, my split today. So with those two pitches, I was able to get them off my fastball and the cutter."

Eduardo Rodriguez came on in relief of Eovaldi and retired six of the seven hitters he faced, striking out two. If he's not part of the starting rotation, Rodriguez is a candidate to pitch out of the bullpen in October -- something he'd done just twice before in his big league career. One of those occasions came in the postseason last October in Houston, an appearance in which he yielded an infield single and hit a batter before being lifted.

Video: BAL@BOS: Benintendi plates Betts on hard RBI single

EOVALDI IN THE CONVERSATION
When asked about Eovaldi's chances to start in October, Cora started talking about matchups. That suggests that Cora will wait to see who wins next week's AL Wild Card Game between the Yankees and A's.

If the Yankees advance to face the Red Sox in the AL Division Series, Eovaldi could start, as the Yankees have hit lefties harder than righties this season. If the A's advance, Rodriguez could start; not only has Oakland hit righties harder than lefties, but Rodriguez has pitched a pair of gems at the Oakland Coliseum in his career.

Video: BAL@BOS: Eovaldi strikes out 10 across 5 great frames

HE SAID IT
"For this to happen is very special. We sit down at home and sometimes we're in awe, like, 'This is really happening?'" -- Cora, on the 106-win season

Video: BAL@BOS: Cora on Red Sox's franchise-record 106th win

UP NEXT
Don't expect the Red Sox to rest on their laurels during the final week of the season. With five days off built into the schedule before Game 1 of the ALDS, David Price (15-7, 3.53 ERA) and the Red Sox will look to keep their foot on the gas pedal against the Orioles on Tuesday at Fenway Park. First pitch is scheduled for 7:10 p.m. ET.

Brian MacPherson is a contributor to MLB.com based in Boston.

Boston Red Sox, Mookie Betts

Postseason Picture: Where we are right now

A closer look at the divisions, Wild Cards and tiebreakers
MLB.com

With the Rays' loss to the Yankees on Monday officially punching Oakland's ticket to the postseason, the five teams that will represent the American League in the playoffs are now set. On top of the pack, the Red Sox clinched the best record in the Major Leagues and secured home-field advantage throughout the postseason with their franchise-record 106th win.

The only races yet to be decided in the Junior Circuit are in the AL West and the Wild Card. Houston, leading the A's by 4 1/2 games in the division, saw its magic number drop to two after a victory in Toronto. And while the A's remarkable second-half surge will officially play on into October, they still have a chance to secure home-field advantage for the Wild Card Game, remaining 1 1/2 games back of the Yankees with their win at Safeco Field.

With the Rays' loss to the Yankees on Monday officially punching Oakland's ticket to the postseason, the five teams that will represent the American League in the playoffs are now set. On top of the pack, the Red Sox clinched the best record in the Major Leagues and secured home-field advantage throughout the postseason with their franchise-record 106th win.

The only races yet to be decided in the Junior Circuit are in the AL West and the Wild Card. Houston, leading the A's by 4 1/2 games in the division, saw its magic number drop to two after a victory in Toronto. And while the A's remarkable second-half surge will officially play on into October, they still have a chance to secure home-field advantage for the Wild Card Game, remaining 1 1/2 games back of the Yankees with their win at Safeco Field.

Meanwhile, in the NL, the Brewers opened a critical series in St. Louis with a win over the Cardinals, extending their advantage for the first Wild Card spot to three games and cutting the Cubs' NL Central lead to 1 1/2 games with some help from Jameson Taillon and the Pirates. Colorado also now looms only a half-game back of St. Louis for the second Wild Card after clobbering the slumping Phillies at Coors Field, but didn't pick up any ground on the Dodgers, who mounted a late comeback against the D-backs to maintain their NL West lead.

Postseason bracket

Here is a division-by-division breakdown of the playoff picture, recapping Monday's action and taking a look at where each contender stands heading into today. Within each division, clubs are listed in order of current standing.

Explaining tiebreaker scenarios for '18 postseason

AMERICAN LEAGUE EAST

RED SOX (106-51, .675)

Status: Clinched AL East; clinched best record in MLB.

Yesterday's result: Beat CLE, 6-2. Recap >

Key tiebreaker: Guranteed the best record in baseball, Boston is locked in as the first seed for the AL in the postseason, with home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.

Today's schedule: vs. BAL (7:10 p.m. ET)

Key series remaining: Friday-Sunday vs. NYY

Video: BAL@BOS: Red Sox get franchise record, home field

YANKEES (96-60, .615)

Status: Clinched AL Wild Card spot. Lead OAK by 1 1/2 games for first AL Wild Card.

Yesterday's result: Beat TB, 4-1. Recap >

Key tiebreaker: If the Yankees and A's tie for the two AL Wild Card spots, home field in the Wild Card Game would go to the winner of the season series, but with each club having won three games, the tiebreaker would go to the club with the better intradivision record. The Yankees (40-30 vs. AL East) hold a lead over the A's (36-35 vs. AL West) in that regard.

Today's schedule: at TB (7:10 p.m. ET)

Key series remaining: Friday-Sunday at BOS

Video: NYY@TB: Yanks pitching staff 2-hits Rays in win

AL CENTRAL

INDIANS (88-68, .564)

Status: Clinched AL Central.

Yesterday's result: Beat CWS, 4-0. Recap >

Key tiebreaker: Cleveland is locked in as the third seed in the AL for the postseason.

Today's schedule: at CWS (8:10 p.m. ET) 

Video: CLE@CWS: Kluber earns 20th win with seven scoreless

AL WEST

ASTROS (99-57, .635)

Status: Clinched postseason berth. Lead OAK by 4 1/2 games in AL West.

Yesterday's result: Beat TOR, 5-3. Recap >

Key tiebreaker: In the event of a tie with Oakland atop the AL West, the Astros would host a one-game tiebreaker by virtue of taking the season series, 12-7.

Today's schedule: at TOR (7:07 p.m. ET)

Video: HOU@TOR: McCann, Reddick crush back-to-back home runs

ATHLETICS (95-62, .605)

Status: Clinched postseason berth. Trail HOU by 4 1/2 games in AL West; trail NYY by 1 1/2 games for first AL Wild Card.

Yesterday's result: Beat SEA, 7-3. More >

Key tiebreaker: If the A's and Yankees tie for the two AL Wild Card spots, home field in the Wild Card Game would go to the winner of the season series, but with both teams having won three games, the tiebreaker would go to the club with the better intradivision record. The Yankees (40-30 vs. AL East) hold a lead over the A's (36-35 vs. AL West) in that regard. If the A's tie the Astros for the AL West crown, Houston would host a one-game tiebreaker by virtue of taking the season series, 12-7.

Today's schedule: at SEA (10:10 p.m. ET)

Key series remaining: Tuesday-Wednesday at SEA

Video: OAK@SEA: Athletics clinch postseason berth

NATIONAL LEAGUE EAST

BRAVES (88-68, .564)

Status: Clinched NL East. Trail CHC by 3 games for No. 1 seed in NL; lead LAD by a half-game for No. 2 seed in NL.

Yesterday's result: Off

Key tiebreaker: In the event of a tie for the best record in the NL, the higher seed would be determined by intradivision record, since the Braves and Cubs each won three games apiece in the season series. Atlanta (47-23) is assured of finishing with a better intradivision record than Chicago (37-33). In the event of a tie for the second seed in the NL, the Dodgers would be awarded the second seed by virtue of winning the season series with the Braves, 5-2.

Today's schedule: at NYM (7:10 p.m. ET)

Key series remaining: Tuesday-Thursday at NYM, Sept. 28-30 at PHI

Video: PHI@ATL: Adams belts a solo homer for his 2nd RBI

NL CENTRAL

CUBS (91-65, .583)

Status: Lead MIL by 1 1/2 games and STL by 4 1/2 games in NL Central; lead ATL by 3 games for No. 1 seed in NL.

Yesterday's result: Lost to PIT, 5-1. Recap >

Key tiebreaker: In the event of a tiebreaker game for the division title, the Cubs would have home-field advantage over the Brewers, by virtue of their 11-8 record vs. Milwaukee in the season series. In the event of a tie for the best record in the NL, the higher seed would be determined by intradivision record, since the Cubs and Braves each won three games apiece in the season series. Atlanta (47-23) would be awarded the higher seed over Chicago (37-33).

Today's schedule: vs. PIT (8:05 p.m. ET)

Key series remaining: Friday-Sunday vs. STL

Video: PIT@CHC: Hamels drives a solo homer to center field

BREWERS (90-67, .573)

Status: Trail CHC by 1 1/2 games in NL Central; lead STL by 3 games for first NL Wild Card.

Yesterday's result: Beat STL, 6-4. Recap >

Key tiebreaker: The Brewers' final three-game series against the Cardinals, concluding Wednesday, will determine the winner of the season series, with the Brewers leading, 9-8, and who would have home-field advantage in the Wild Card Game if the two clubs finished tied for both Wild Card spots.

Today's schedule: at STL (8:15 p.m. ET)

Key series remaining: Tuesday-Wednesday at STL

Video: MIL@STL: Thames lines a triple in the 8th

CARDINALS (87-70, .554)

Status: Trail CHC by 4 1/2 games in NL Central; lead COL by a half-game for second NL Wild Card spot, trail MIL by 3 games for first NL Wild Card spot.

Yesterday's result: Lost to MIL, 6-4. Recap >

Key tiebreaker: The Cardinals' final three-game series against the Brewers, concluding Wednesday, will determine the winner of the season series, with the Brewers leading, 9-8, and who would have home-field advantage in the Wild Card Game if the two clubs finished tied for both Wild Card spots. Should St. Louis finish tied with Colorado for the second NL Wild Card spot, the Cardinals would host a tiebreaker by virtue of winning the season series, 5-2.

Today's schedule: vs. MIL (8:15 p.m. ET)

Key series remaining: Tuesday-Wednesday vs. MIL, Friday-Sunday at CHC

Video: MIL@STL: Ozuna laces 113.9-mph home run off Hader

NL WEST

DODGERS (88-69, .561)

Status: Lead COL by 1 1/2 games in NL West; trail ATL by a half-game for No. 2 seed in NL.

Yesterday's result: Beat ARI, 7-4. Recap >

Key tiebreaker: Should there be a tiebreaker game for the division title, Los Angeles is currently in position to host the Rockies because it won the season series, 12-7. The Dodgers lost the season series to the Cardinals, 4-3, so in the event of a tie for a Wild Card spot, Los Angeles would play at St. Louis. In the event of a tie for the second seed in the NL, the Dodgers would be awarded the second seed by virtue of winning the season series against the Braves, 5-2.

Today's schedule: at ARI (9:40 p.m. ET)

Key series remaining: Tuesday-Wednesday at ARI

Video: LAD@ARI: Freese hits solo jack to right field in 5th

ROCKIES (86-70, .551)

Status: Trail LAD by 1 1/2 games in NL West; trail STL by a half-game for second NL Wild Card spot. 

Yesterday's result: Beat PHI, 10-1. Recap >

Key tiebreaker: In the event of a tie for first place in the division, there would be a tiebreaker game to determine the NL West champion. The Rockies would be on the road for such a game against the Dodgers due to the result of their season series against Los Angeles (7-12). If there is a tie for the second NL Wild Card spot, the Rockies would travel to St. Louis for a tiebreaker game as a result of losing the season series to the Cardinals, 5-2.

Today's schedule: vs. PHI (8:40 p.m. ET)

Key series remaining: Tuesday-Thursday vs. PHI

Video: PHI@COL: Story doubles, reaches extra-base milestone

POSTSEASON PICTURE

If the playoffs began today, here's how they would look:

Postseason schedule

NL Wild Card Game (Tues., Oct. 2)
Cardinals at Brewers

AL Wild Card Game (Wed., Oct. 3)
Athletics at Yankees

NL Division Series (begins Thurs., Oct. 4)
NL Wild Card Game winner at Cubs
Dodgers at Braves

AL Division Series (begins Fri., Oct. 5)
AL Wild Card Game winner at Red Sox
Indians at Astros

Andrew Simon is a research analyst for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @AndrewSimonMLB.

Do-Hyoung Park is a reporter for MLB.com based in the Bay Area. Follow him on Twitter at @dohyoungpark.

Manny Randhawa is a reporter for MLB.com based in Denver. Follow him on Twitter at @MannyOnMLB.

Matt Kelly is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York. Follow him on Twitter at @mattkellyMLB.

Milwaukee Brewers, Atlanta Braves, New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox, Chicago Cubs, Cleveland Indians, Oakland Athletics, Los Angeles Dodgers, Colorado Rockies, Houston Astros

Error helps Brewers shave magic number to 3

MLB.com @AdamMcCalvy

ST. LOUIS -- In the end it wasn't employing an opener, or bullpenning, or whatever term the analytically-minded choose to apply to the hybrid path the Brewers took to 27 outs Monday night that made the difference in a game they desperately wanted to win.

In the end, it was a little bit of help from the opponent that pushed Milwaukee closer to clinching a spot in the postseason.

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ST. LOUIS -- In the end it wasn't employing an opener, or bullpenning, or whatever term the analytically-minded choose to apply to the hybrid path the Brewers took to 27 outs Monday night that made the difference in a game they desperately wanted to win.

In the end, it was a little bit of help from the opponent that pushed Milwaukee closer to clinching a spot in the postseason.

View Full Game Coverage

"Wins are precious and you're doing everything you can to make sure you're in the playoffs, and we're inching closer to that," said Brewers manager Craig Counsell after a 6-4 win over the Cardinals at Busch Stadium. "We aren't quite there yet."

Christian Yelich logged his 97th and 98th RBIs and Ryan Braun homered and drove in two runs as the Brewers closed to within 1 1/2 games of the National League Central-leading Cubs and pushed another game ahead of the Cardinals in the NL Wild Card standings. Milwaukee now leads St. Louis by three games and Colorado by 3 1/2 games.

Video: MIL@STL: Braun smashes a solo homer into second deck

Milwaukee's magic number to clinch a postseason spot is down to three.

"Every game is the biggest game of the year. Tomorrow will now be the biggest game of the year," said Braun. "We're well aware of the circumstances and the numbers and how many games up we are, where [the Cardinals] are at, where the Rockies are. We've approached every game the same way the last couple of weeks and that's worked well for us.

"But I do think that having this experience and playing these meaningful, stressful, anxiety-filled, pressure-filled games, is something that benefits us because we've been doing it for a couple weeks. We'll show up [Tuesday] and do it the same way."

The twists and turns of Monday's game, including a 31-minute rain delay in the seventh inning, overshadowed the Brewers' surprise decision to scratch scheduled starter Chase Anderson in favor of left-handed reliever Dan Jennings, who threw three pitches and called it a day.

Eight other relievers followed including Freddy Peralta, who did the bulk of the work with 3 2/3 innings; Josh Hader, who surrendered three runs on a pair of Cardinals homers in a rainy sixth; and Joakim Soria and Corey Knebel, who covered the final six outs with closer Jeremy Jeffress unavailable because of neck spasms.

Video: MIL@STL: Knebel K's Martinez, the side to notch save

It all added up to a Brewers victory in part because the Cardinals kept stepping on themselves. Starter Jack Flaherty was outstanding until a sudden lapse of command in the top of the sixth, when he walked two batters and hit another before reliever Dakota Hudson took over and walked Braun, forcing in the first of two Brewers runs.

Video: MIL@STL: Braun draws free pass with bases full in 6th

It was defense that let St. Louis down in the eighth, when the Brewers took the lead. An Eric Thames triple skipped past Cardinals right fielder Jose Martinez before an errant pickoff by Cards reliever Bud Norris provided the go-ahead run. Norris was throwing over to first base in an effort to hold Mike Moustakas, he of one stolen base this season.

"That's first and third, they're trying to hold a runner close in case we hit and run, squeeze or something like that," Counsell said. "So we caught a little bit of a break when the throw went away. You take the break sometimes. Sometimes you need a break, too. We got one there."

Said Cards manager Mike Shildt: "I'm always a glass-half-full guy, but it's always a little harder when you feel like you didn't take care of your own business when it was there. We didn't help ourselves."

Video: MIL@STL: Shildt on errors, pitching in loss

The Brewers' victory sealed the eighth 90-win season in franchise history and guaranteed they will head home for the final series of the regular season in position for the first NL Wild Card.

They still have their sights set on the Cubs, however.

"You've seen what these guys can do this past month," Hader said. "These guys have been working at-bats and scoring guys. These guys are going to keep rolling. We want to keep the momentum going."

Video: MIL@STL: Brewers on 6-4 win over the Cardinals

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Heads-up baserunning: It might have looked like a mistake when Travis Shaw was tagged out between second and third to end the Brewers' half of the sixth inning, but it was actually one of the pivotal plays in the game. Shaw was one of the three Brewers who walked in that inning and was at second base when Moustakas lifted a sacrifice fly to left field. Jesus Aguilar was the runner at third, and as the throw headed home, Shaw broke for third and induced third baseman Jedd Gyorko to cut off the baseball and go for the out. Aguilar touched home a moment before Gyorko applied the tag.

Video: MIL@STL: Moustakas drives in Aguilar with sac fly

"First of all, it was a great send by [third-base coach Ed Sedar]," said Counsell. "It was a very nice, aggressive play by Eddy. I don't think the throw gets to the plate. The question, to me, is could it have been cut and thrown home. Travis did really nice baserunning to put himself in the vision of Gyorko. It was a good play all around. Good play by Eddy. Good play by Travis."

Cards get to Hader: By the bottom of the sixth, the Brewers had a lead and the man they wanted on the mound in Hader, the dominant lefty who had struck out 17 of the last 20 batters he faced before a three-batter flurry, bookended by Martinez's solo home run and Marcell Ozuna's two-run shot in the rain, gave the Cardinals a 4-3 lead. Entering the night, Hader had surrendered six home runs all season, and only once had allowed more than one homer in a game. That was in July against the Marlins.

Video: MIL@STL: Hader K's Carpenter to end the 5th

Hader's fastball velocity, down a tick to a 94.2 mph average, indicated he may have been having trouble gripping the baseball.

"I can't use that as an excuse," Hader said. "I made mistakes, left two pitches over the middle. That hurt me. The walk didn't help as well. … It was wet; it was raining. Obviously, it's not the easiest thing. But I made a mistake, threw two fastballs down the middle. You saw what happened."

Video: MIL@STL: Counsell on Hader's struggles in win

JENNINGS GETS THE START
A number of players were out for dinner Sunday night after the team charter landed in St. Louis, debating who would get the start after Counsell announced Anderson was being skipped. Jennings didn't find out it was him until he got a text from an unfamiliar number Monday morning.

That number belonged to Counsell.

"Somebody asked me if I was going to go five tonight before the game and I said, "Five pitches or five innings?'" Jennings joked.

Video: MIL@STL: Jennings retires Carpenter, exits in 1st

The idea, Counsell confirmed later, was limiting Peralta's exposure to Carpenter, the Cardinals' left-handed-hitting leadoff man and MVP candidate. The Brewers knew they didn't have enough left-handers to cover all of Carpenter's at-bats, so they made the strategic decision to get the left-on-left matchup they wanted for the first at-bat, then see if Peralta could cover the second.

The first part worked, but the second did not. Carpenter hit an RBI double off Peralta in the third inning.

Video: MIL@STL: Carpenter lines an RBI double in the 3rd

Did Jennings see the future of baseball in Monday's exercise?

"I kind of hope not," he said, "just because I really do see a value in having starting pitchers and relievers. That's what we grew up with and if it is going to shift in that direction, maybe the guys coming up will be more used to it and implemented at lower levels just to get guys used to it. ... Tonight, it seemed a little more like we're going to have all hands on deck because we need to win this game."

HE SAID IT
"I almost took the base out and held it over my head." -- Thames, on his triple. He entered the night hitting .125 since the start of August and has slipped into a bench role with the addition of Curtis Granderson to the outfield mix

Video: MIL@STL: Thames lines a triple in the 8th

UP NEXT
The Brewers won't mess around with an opener Tuesday, when veteran left-hander Gio Gonzalez takes the mound for his fourth Milwaukee start. The Brewers have won each of their first three games behind Gonzalez, who is coming off six scoreless innings against the Reds in his most recent outing. He'll work opposite Cardinals left-hander Austin Gomber in the 7:15 p.m. CT affair.

Adam McCalvy has covered the Brewers for MLB.com since 2001. Follow him on Twitter @AdamMcCalvy and like him on Facebook.

Milwaukee Brewers, Ryan Braun, Josh Hader

Dodgers rally in AZ to trim magic number to 5

MLB.com @kengurnick

PHOENIX -- There won't be a party anywhere at Chase Field for the Dodgers this week, but they moved closer to a party somewhere by wearing down the D-backs on Monday night in a 7-4 win that trimmed the magic number to clinch the National League West to five.

With Dodgers fans packing the park for the look and feel of a home game, the first-place visitors overcame two deficits and finally took the lead against Arizona's bullpen with seventh-inning runs on pinch-hitter Max Muncy's RBI single and a run-scoring groundout by Manny Machado before adding three insurance runs in the ninth on a pair of wild pitches by Yoshihisa Hirano and an RBI double by Machado, who had to hustle for a double after thinking it was gone.

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PHOENIX -- There won't be a party anywhere at Chase Field for the Dodgers this week, but they moved closer to a party somewhere by wearing down the D-backs on Monday night in a 7-4 win that trimmed the magic number to clinch the National League West to five.

With Dodgers fans packing the park for the look and feel of a home game, the first-place visitors overcame two deficits and finally took the lead against Arizona's bullpen with seventh-inning runs on pinch-hitter Max Muncy's RBI single and a run-scoring groundout by Manny Machado before adding three insurance runs in the ninth on a pair of wild pitches by Yoshihisa Hirano and an RBI double by Machado, who had to hustle for a double after thinking it was gone.

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"We waited them out and got to their 'pen," said Dodgers manager Dave Roberts. "We had guys coming off the bench, and that was the difference in the game."

David Freese, acquired for stretch-run games like this, had an infield single during the seventh-inning rally, having already homered and singled to drive in the first two runs for the Dodgers, who lead the Rockies by 1 1/2 games with five to play.

Video: LAD@ARI: Freese hits solo jack to right field in 5th

"I really like the at-bat quality, and he's gotten big hits for us, but tonight was probably the biggest, the home run that tied the game up," said Roberts. "He's a leader, doing things the right way, and guys tend to follow him.When we're talking about approach and having a plan as a team, he's all in. He's all that we had hoped for."

The feeling seems to be mutual for Freese, who is hitting .375 since being acquired from Pittsburgh on Aug. 31 to give the Dodgers a professional right-handed bat for opposing pitchers like Arizona lefty Robbie Ray.

"You understand what this organization is trying to do and you get called upon to help out," said Freese, part of the club's right-handed-hitting platoon. "You do whatever Dave asks of you. You need to be productive and help the team, and so far, I think I've done a decent job of doing my thing and filling my role. This never gets easy, but we're all professional hitters and we're handling it pretty well."

The Dodgers have 40 players active and, from where Arizona manager Torey Lovullo sits, they seemed to use all 40.

"They have a long bench, and it was exactly what our advance scout had predicted -- that after the fifth inning they would start to maneuver and start to roll things over. And we were trying to create the best matchups possible, but you don't have enough guys to do it," Lovullo said. "It's how they've been operating, I'm sure, for several weeks, and it's been working."

Video: LAD@ARI: Machado plates Puig to put Dodgers ahead

After the seventh-inning rally put starter Clayton Kershaw (9-5) in line for the win, the Dodgers bullpen held off the D-backs, with Caleb Ferguson, Scott Alexander, Kenta Maeda and Kenley Jansen working the final three innings. Jansen allowed a leadoff homer to A.J. Pollock in the ninth, and Maeda's outing was marred when he hit Christian Walker in the face with a 94-mph fastball. The D-backs announced that Walker had a facial contusion.

For the first eight innings, Arizona's offense was all Ketel Marte, who homered, tripled, singled and drove in all three runs off Kershaw. Marte also took Kershaw deep in last year's National League Division Series, saying after that he wasn't very impressed by the three-time NL Cy Young Award winner. This time around, Marte was more reserved in his comments.

"Every time when I faced him, he would strike me out," the switch-hitter said of his struggles against Kershaw before last year's NLDS. "I didn't think last year I was that good from the right side. Last year, I said, 'I'm going to face you next year, too.' I feel good. I'm trying to do my best out there."

Both starting pitchers struggled to control the damage. Ray entered the game 4-0 against the Dodgers over the past two seasons, but he was trailing after three batters when Freese's single on an 0-2 pitch knocked in Chris Taylor. Ray walked the next two hitters, but the Dodgers stranded the bases loaded.

Video: LAD@ARI: Marte homers, tallies 3 hits off Kershaw

Kershaw lost that early lead after three batters, on an RBI triple by Marte past diving right fielder Matt Kemp. Marte was stranded at third base, but he made sure that didn't happen in the third inning, when he homered to left with two outs for a 2-1 Arizona lead.

In the fifth inning, Freese came through again, delivering a game-tying, line-drive homer to right field, his 11th this year and second since joining the Dodgers.

But again Kershaw couldn't deliver a shut-down inning and again it was Marte, who cashed in Chris Owings' one-out double with a two-out RBI single for a 3-2 lead.

"We got a run in the first and gave it right back. Freese homered to tie it, and I gave it right back," said Kershaw. "Those are rules of pitching you don't want to break. Fortunate to get through that tonight. The guys really battled and scratched and made their bullpen cover four innings."

Video: LAD@ARI: Muncy ties game with pinch-hit knock in 7th

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Roberts said a key to the game was Justin Turner's 11-pitch at-bat in the fifth inning. Although it ended in a flyout, it was followed by Freese's home run and it helped run up Ray's pitch count to 100 by the fifth inning, his last.

"I know they wanted to get him through sixth with the lead," said Roberts. "J.T.'s at-bat, you could see he was gassed. He strikes a breaking ball to Freese. Next fastball, he didn't get it where he wanted and Freese hit a home run. J.T.'s at-bat there was key."

Video: LAD@ARI: Roberts on Kershaw, 9th-inning rally in win

SOUND SMART
Kershaw is 6-1 with a 2.36 ERA over his last 12 starts and 8-1 in his last 15 starts. He's 16-9 in his career against Arizona.

Video: LAD@ARI: Kershaw K's 6 over 6 innings of 3-run ball

HE SAID IT
"We can't approach a day looking for help. We put ourselves in a situation where we're in the driver's seat. There's going to be some scoreboard watching, that's natural. But it's on us to take care of our own business." -- Roberts, on not counting on losses by the Rockies, who won their fourth straight game on Monday

UP NEXT
Walker Buehler starts Tuesday night's tilt against the D-backs and Matt Koch, who fills in for the injured Clay Buchholz, and fans can watch the 6:40 p.m. PT matchup free on MLB.TV. It's a long shot that Buehler finishes higher than third in NL Rookie of the Year Award voting, but he's already unofficially the No. 2 starter in the Dodgers' rotation. He's coming off one of his best starts, a career-high 12 strikeouts over six innings against the Rockies in L.A.

Ken Gurnick has covered the Dodgers for MLB.com since 2001.

Los Angeles Dodgers, David Freese, Clayton Kershaw, Manny Machado

Rox half-game out of WC with blowout win

Gray allows 1 run over 7 innings; Dahl homers and Parra gets 3 hits
MLB.com @harding_at_mlb

DENVER -- In the first game of their final-week postseason push, the Rockies played the way they were put together in a 10-1 blowout win over the Phillies at Coors Field on Monday night.

Colorado moved within a half-game of the Cardinals for the second National League Wild Card spot thanks to St. Louis' loss to the Brewers. The Rockies remain 1 1/2 games behind the Dodgers in the NL West, as Los Angeles beat the D-backs on Monday.

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DENVER -- In the first game of their final-week postseason push, the Rockies played the way they were put together in a 10-1 blowout win over the Phillies at Coors Field on Monday night.

Colorado moved within a half-game of the Cardinals for the second National League Wild Card spot thanks to St. Louis' loss to the Brewers. The Rockies remain 1 1/2 games behind the Dodgers in the NL West, as Los Angeles beat the D-backs on Monday.

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"We'll see what happens to other teams, but we've got a chance," said Gerardo Parra, who had three hits and two RBIs and is 12-for-30 over his last 13 appearances. "We believe it. We're strong. We're together."

Video: PHI@COL: Parra singles home LeMahieu in the 3rd

An offense that pounded 13 hits, including a David Dahl two-run homer, and Trevor Story's two doubles in his return from missing a week with a right elbow injury, came together in support of right-hander Jon Gray (12-8), who struck out seven and held Philadelphia to one run on four hits over seven innings.

Story makes extra-base-hit history in return

Video: PHI@COL: Story doubles, reaches extra-base milestone

Last Monday, the same game when Story's injury occurred, Gray -- pitching at a faster tempo from the windup -- gave up six runs in two-plus innings against the Dodgers. This time, the results were different.

"I know it wasn't perfect," Gray said. "I know I didn't tap into it completely, but it was more of myself tonight -- aggressive and attacking the zone."

The Rockies exceeded three runs just twice while going 4-5 on their recent road trip, but now they exploded for 10 runs in running their winning streak to four.

The Rockies broke the game open against Phillies starter Zach Eflin (11-8) in a patient five-run third inning that included four singles -- two of which were run-scoring hits to center field by Nolan Arenado and Parra -- and three walks. Eflin left after walking Ian Desmond to load the bases, and reliever Austin Davis then walked Tony Wolters and Gray, before a wild pitch brought in another run.

Video: PHI@COL: Parra singles home LeMahieu in the 3rd

"The third inning, we had some really good at-bats and took some pitches borderline, took some pitches that were balls and we didn't chase," Rockies manager Bud Black said. "Through the lineup, our approach overall was solid."

Video: PHI@COL: Black discusses Gray, offensive production

GRAY BOUNCES BACK
Gray had not made it beyond four innings in any of his last three starts, which led to his last turn in the rotation being skipped. The Rockies couldn't afford another poor performance.

Setup man Adam Ottavino and closer Wade Davis were not available after appearing in all three games of a weekend sweep of the D-backs, and Black was expecting to start Chad Bettis -- who has been in the bullpen of late -- on Tuesday with a 35-50-pitch limit. Gray needed to give Colorado length, and he did.

In the first inning, Carlos Santana and Odubel Herrera reached on well-placed singles, and Gray couldn't turn a double play on a Rhys Hoskins ground ball because his throw to second base wasn't the best. After a two-out walk to Wilson Ramos, Gray's pitch count was rising quickly.

Wolters came to the mound, less for strategy than for inspiration -- "'Come on, Jon, you got this. … Just a little bit of adversity,'" Wolters recalled.

Gray said, "It fired me up a little bit, and we got back after it."

Gray then struck out Aaron Altherr on three pitches -- the last an 89.2 mph slider -- to end the frame with no runs allowed but 29 pitches thrown.

Video: PHI@COL: Gray K's Altherr, strands 3 in the 1st

However, Gray threw just 13 pitches in the second inning, helping himself with a pickoff of Roman Quinn after a two-out walk. Quinn was originally called safe, but the call was reversed on a replay review. After that, Gray's efficiency continued.

"The pitch count went down and down each inning," Black said.

Video: PHI@COL: Gray draws walk with bases loaded in the 3rd

SOUND SMART
Charlie Blackmon extended his hit streak -- already a career high -- to 16 games with a third-inning single. His hitting was a bright spot when the team was struggling on the road.

Video: PHI@COL: Blackmon singles to extend hit streak to 16

HE SAID IT
"Down the stretch, playoffs, big games to get there, you just need quality at-bats. I think you see good teams that win, it's not always relying on the homer. We're having quality at-bats right now, and hopefully that can continue." -- Arenado, on the Rockies' offense

Video: PHI@COL: Arenado opens scoring with an RBI single

YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
Dahl's homer -- the Rockies' first since Blackmon's last Tuesday off the Dodgers' Clayton Kershaw -- was an opposite-field shot that kept carrying. The distance of the fly ball and the presence of the left-field wall surprised Altherr. The latter was painful.

Altherr ran into the wall without bracing himself and went down on the warning track in heap. He left the game with a right big toe sprain and a right knee contusion. Altherr showed concussion symptoms and received testing for that.

Video: PHI@COL: Dahl hits 2-run homer, Altherr hits wall

"I didn't really see it," Dahl said. "I looked down to hit first base, then I looked up and saw him on the ground and didn't know where the ball was. I thought he caught it. I was looking around to see what was going on.

"But you never want to see that happen to anybody, an injury like that. It's rough. He was playing hard. It was unfortunate."

UP NEXT
Bettis (5-2, 5.18 ERA) will make his first start since Aug. 12, when he went 6 1/3 innings against the Dodgers but didn't receive the decision in a 4-2 victory. Bettis' time in the rotation was marred by a recurring right middle finger blister. Now, after six relief appearances over the last month -- during which he registered a 2.16 ERA -- Bettis is available for 35-50 pitches, with Black using bullpen matchups behind him. The Phillies will start righty Vince Velasquez (9-11, 4.59), who is 2-0 with a 3.95 ERA in five career starts against the Rockies.

Thomas Harding has covered the Rockies since 2000, and for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter and like his Facebook page.

Colorado Rockies, Jon Gray

Injury updates: Gregorius, Hicks, Wong

MLB.com

Here's a roundup of the latest injury news across the Majors.

Didi Gregorius and Aaron Hicks, Yankees
Despite a cartilage tear in his right wrist, Gregorius still believes he could return to the field before the regular season ends. After he received a cortisone injection on Sunday, Gregorius traded a bulky ice wrap for a lighter brace on Monday and worked with a gripper for his strength. Though Gregorius said that he has undergone a "big improvement," manager Aaron Boone is taking a more cautious approach and will wait until his shortstop is re-evaluated on Wednesday. More >

Here's a roundup of the latest injury news across the Majors.

Didi Gregorius and Aaron Hicks, Yankees
Despite a cartilage tear in his right wrist, Gregorius still believes he could return to the field before the regular season ends. After he received a cortisone injection on Sunday, Gregorius traded a bulky ice wrap for a lighter brace on Monday and worked with a gripper for his strength. Though Gregorius said that he has undergone a "big improvement," manager Aaron Boone is taking a more cautious approach and will wait until his shortstop is re-evaluated on Wednesday. More >

Hicks will undergo a precautionary MRI on Tuesday after he exited Monday's victory at Tropicana Field with a tight left hamstring. He appeared to experience discomfort after he beat out a potential double-play ball in the third inning and was eventually replaced by Brett Gardner. He told the media that he has been experiencing discomfort for several days, but he doesn't expect it to be a lingering issue. More >

Kolten Wong, Cardinals
Wong struck out in a pinch-hit at-bat on Monday against the Brewers after he passed several on-field pregame tests and was cleared for pinch-hitting and defensive replacement duties. He indicated before Monday's game that he was at around 85-90 percent of full strength after testing his tight hamstrings, and could be in the starting lineup as soon as Tuesday. More >

Jose Urena, Marlins
Urena is expected to make his final start of the season as scheduled on Friday despite an early exit from his last start with tightness in his right thigh. Manager Don Mattingly doesn't expect Urena to have any lingering issues, especially since he'll get an extra day of rest before he pitches on Friday.

"He ran yesterday," Mattingly said of Urena on Monday. "He looks like he's going to be fine. He's a pretty heavy workout guy. We're trying to lighten him up this week, make sure he felt fine doing everything." More >

Aaron Altherr and Zach Eflin, Phillies
Altherr crashed into the left-field wall at Coors Field on Monday and exited the game before he was later diagnosed with a sprained right big toe and a bruised right knee. He was also tested for a concussion after exhibiting some symptoms. Phillies manager Gabe Kapler indicated that Altherr will undergo further concussion testing before he is ultimately cleared.

Video: PHI@COL: Altherr collides with left-field wall, exits

Eflin is likely done for the season after he also made a premature exit in the third inning, when he was pulled with the bases loaded due to left side tightness, which first started bothering him on Sept. 14, two starts ago. He will fly to Philadelphia for further examination. More >

Lourdes Gurriel Jr. and Aaron Sanchez, Blue Jays
Gurriel left the Blue Jays' Monday loss to the Astros in the first inning with tightness in his left hamstring after he appeared to tweak the leg while running out a double-play grounder. Gurriel had missed almost all of August with injuries to his left knee and ankle. More >

Video: HOU@TOR: Gurriel leaves with an apparent injury

Sanchez is likely done for the season after leaving the team on Sunday to see a hand specialist in California regarding his right middle finger, which swelled up and has had lingering issues after a freak accident with a piece of luggage. The finger was also problematic last season, when he dealt with a blister and a ligament strain. More >

Christian Walker, Diamondbacks
Walker was hit in the head by an errant Kenta Maeda pitch in the eighth inning of the D-backs' loss to the Dodgers on Monday and exited the game. Though he went to the ground and was seen spitting up blood after he was hit in the face guard by a 93 mph fastball, he exited under his own power.

He was expected to undergo an MRI on Monday night.

Astros' magic number at 2 after win vs. Jays

McCann, Reddick hit back-to-back HRs; bullpen spells Keuchel with 4 scoreless
MLB.com @brianmctaggart

TORONTO -- The Astros' bullpen depth was on full display Monday night, with six relievers piecing together four scoreless innings in a 5-3 win over the Blue Jays that inched the defending World Series champs closer to another division title.

Roberto Osuna, the former Blue Jays closer who was dealt to the Astros in July, recorded the final out after entering to boos at Rogers Centre as Houston reduced its magic number to clinch the American League West title to two games with its 99th win.

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TORONTO -- The Astros' bullpen depth was on full display Monday night, with six relievers piecing together four scoreless innings in a 5-3 win over the Blue Jays that inched the defending World Series champs closer to another division title.

Roberto Osuna, the former Blue Jays closer who was dealt to the Astros in July, recorded the final out after entering to boos at Rogers Centre as Houston reduced its magic number to clinch the American League West title to two games with its 99th win.

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Up-to-the-minute standings

"It's exciting," Astros reliever Ryan Pressly said. "It's getting down to that point, but we still have business to take care of up here. We're going to go about our own [business] and keep hitting and pitching the way we're supposed to."

Video: HOU@TOR: Osuna gets the save against his former team

Osuna wasn't made available to reporters after the game following his first outing against the team with which he became an All-Star closer. The save was his 19th of the season.

"It was real weird," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. "Kind of some mixed emotions, but there was a good chance he was going to get it done. I've seen him do it too many times."

The Astros can clinch the AL West on Tuesday with a win vs. Toronto and a loss by the A's, who are 4 1/2 games out in the division but clinched a postseason berth with the Rays' loss to the Yankees. The Astros improved to 17-4 in September and tied a franchise record with their 53rd road win.

Video: HOU@TOR: Gurriel drives in Springer to open scoring

Astros first baseman Yuli Gurriel, who was named AL Player of the Week on Monday, had a two-out RBI single in the first inning to score George Springer before Brian McCann and Josh Reddick went back to back off Jays starter Marco Estrada in the second for a 3-0 lead.

Gurriel brothers thrilled to share same MLB field

"[Estrada] made some mistakes, and it started with the first pitch of the game," Astros manager AJ Hinch said. "I think George set the tone and gets up there and hits a bullet right out of the chute, and that kickstarted us to get up there and get a good pitch to hit. You've got to pick some pitch to go after and commit to it."

Kevin Pillar hit a two-run homer off Astros starter Dallas Keuchel in the fourth, and Keuchel pitched out of a bases-loaded, no-outs jam in the fifth by allowing just one run to preserve the lead. Keuchel (12-11), making perhaps his final regular-season start in an Astros uniform, allowed three runs, seven hits and three walks in five innings.

Video: HOU@TOR: Altuve bats in Marisnick with an RBI single

"Getting out of the fourth and fifth inning was huge," Hinch said. "Just being able to control the innings a little bit to have the lead was a success for him. It could have really imploded if he doesn't make pitches and doesn't keep his composure and get out of the inning as lightly unscathed as he could."

Astros relievers Joe Smith, Will Harris, Tony Sipp, Brad Peacock, Pressly and Osuna held the Jays to four hits in four innings. Hinch has a lot of options to get hitters out with his bullpen depth, which should loom large in October.

"There were some big outs," Hinch said. "It started with Dallas getting out of his mess, and then Will got out of his mess and Tony got out of Will's mess and Osuna got out of his own. There was a lot of good pitching tonight after getting out to the lead. It was a good win."

Video: HOU@TOR: Altuve scoops low throw on double play

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
The first four hitters Keuchel faced in fifth inning all reached, but only one scored. The bases were loaded with no outs when Yangervis Solarte hit an RBI single to cut the lead to 4-3. Keuchel struck out Justin Smoak looking on a close pitch before Randal Grichuk hit into a fielder's choice and Pillar struck out swinging to strand the bases loaded.

"It seems like it was destined to implode right there," Keuchel said. "I was just trying to make as many quality pitches as I could and was fortunate enough to get a few swings and misses and a few soft-contact swings. Those things can go your way real quick or they can go against you real quick. I was fortunate enough to corral it back in and get out of it."

Video: HOU@TOR: Keuchel fans Pillar with the bases loaded

SOUND SMART
Alex Bregman, who hit an RBI double in the third, has reached base safely in 52 consecutive road games, the longest streak in franchise history, breaking Jeff Bagwell's 51-game road streak set from 1998-99. It is the longest streak in baseball since Derek Jeter posted a 59-game road streak from 2006-07.

Video: HOU@TOR: Bregman drives in Altuve with double to left

HE SAID IT
"Pick your poison. He can go to anybody. He's got trust in everybody down there. Everybody is feeding off each other down there." -- Pressly, on Hinch's bullpen options

UP NEXT
The Astros hope to be in position to clinch a division title when hard-throwing rookie Josh James (1-0, 2.81 ERA) makes his third career start (fifth game) in Tuesday's 6:07 p.m. CT game against the Blue Jays at Rogers Centre. Right-hander Sam Gaviglio (3-8, 5.18 ERA) will start for the Jays.

Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast.

Houston Astros

This is why you shouldn't park on Waveland Ave.

Every Spring Training features a handful of stories of players hitting parked cars during batting practice or games, but this rarely happens during the regular season. The reason: Major League parks are designed with the power of Major League hitters in mind.

During the first inning of Monday night's game against the Cubs, however, Pirates catcher Francisco Cervelli got a hold of a pitch from Cole Hamels and hit it high, far and right on out of Wrigley Field.

Yankees knock Rays out of playoff chase

Center fielder's run-saving catch helps bullpen arms secure 2-hitter
MLB.com @BryanHoch

ST. PETERSBURG -- The longest-tenured Yankee insists that he has not bothered to peel back the layers of his uncertain future. If this is indeed the closing act of Brett Gardner's time in New York, he intends to maintain the same approach that kept him with the organization for more than a decade, leaving every ounce of energy on the field.

Gardner came off the bench to deliver a key run-scoring hit, then preserved the lead with a terrific sixth-inning catch as the Yankees defeated the Rays, 4-1, on Monday evening at Tropicana Field. The loss officially eliminated Tampa Bay from the postseason, ensuring that New York will face the Athletics in the American League Wild Card Game on Oct. 3.

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ST. PETERSBURG -- The longest-tenured Yankee insists that he has not bothered to peel back the layers of his uncertain future. If this is indeed the closing act of Brett Gardner's time in New York, he intends to maintain the same approach that kept him with the organization for more than a decade, leaving every ounce of energy on the field.

Gardner came off the bench to deliver a key run-scoring hit, then preserved the lead with a terrific sixth-inning catch as the Yankees defeated the Rays, 4-1, on Monday evening at Tropicana Field. The loss officially eliminated Tampa Bay from the postseason, ensuring that New York will face the Athletics in the American League Wild Card Game on Oct. 3.

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"I feel like I've always been pretty good at trying to focus on the present and compartmentalize things," Gardner said. "[The future is] out of my control. That's a long way away for me. I'm just worried about today and tomorrow and this team that we have this season. I feel like we've got a really special group of guys. It's just fun to be a part of."

Video: NYY@TB: Yanks pitching staff 2-hits Rays in win

Andrew McCutchen hit a third-inning homer while Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge contributed run-scoring hits, supporting a 'bullpen day' squad of eight relievers who held the Rays to two hits. Tampa Bay's only run came in the fourth inning off Sonny Gray when Tommy Pham doubled, advanced on a passed ball and scored on a double play.

Jonathan Holder tossed a scoreless inning in his first big league start, Gray recorded six outs and was credited with the win, while Zach Britton worked the ninth for his seventh save (third with the Yankees).

"We feel like our 'pen is really deep with a lot of guys that you would consider high-leverage guys," Yankees manager Aaron Boone said. "We feel like when we're at our best, when we're rested, we can shorten the game on you. There's probably going to be playoff games where you do see a starter go short and we can roll out our guys one inning apiece. That's definitely one of the formulas for us to be successful."

Video: NYY@TB: Gardner drives in Judge with RBI single

Though a stacked outfield has prompted Gardner's playing time to dwindle in recent weeks, suggesting that the Yankees may decline to pick up his $12.5 million option for 2019, the 35-year-old Gardner has focused on being prepared when his number is called.

"Just a pro," Boone said. "Since we've gotten healthy, it has cut into some of his playing time, but there is no doubt in my mind he's going to play a big role for us down the stretch and hopefully into the playoffs. He came up huge tonight for us."

Gardner entered the game after Aaron Hicks aggravated a tight left hamstring running out a third-inning grounder, then gave the Yanks the lead by lashing a run-scoring hit in the fifth off Ryan Yarbrough. In the sixth, Gardner slammed into the center-field wall making a catch to rob Brandon Lowe of extra bases.

"He hit it well," Gardner said. "I turned around and knew immediately that I had to get back to the wall as quick as I could. Guys on base and full count, [Tommy Pham] was running. Even if he wasn't running, he was going to score from first. It would've been a tie game. I was just trying to get back there and make a play."

Video: Must C Catch: Gardner crashes into wall to make catch

From the mound, David Robertson raised his fists in exaltation, then momentarily showed concern while Gardner slowly rose to his feet.

"Thank goodness Gardy was out there," Robertson said. "That was an unbelievable play. Banged his head against the fence out there pretty hard too. I think it was the game-saving play. That's the way he's always played. He plays hard. He gives it everything he's got out there."

Video: NYY@TB: Stanton doubles, Gardner scores from first

SOUND SMART
Dellin Betances worked a perfect eighth inning, but he recorded no strikeouts, snapping a streak of 44 consecutive appearances (since May 29) with at least one whiff. It is the longest streak in AL history and the third-longest in the Majors, behind Aroldis Chapman (49) and Corey Knebel (46).

Video: NYY@TB: Betances loses consecutive-game K streak

YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
McCutchen was particularly impressed by the skill level of Gardner's play, which included finding the softer chain-link portion of the fence to land against.

"Being in a dome and not being able to see the ball as you would because of the roof and the warning track," McCutchen said. "The warning track is a different color. It's all turf, so you don't have the dirt to tell you that the wall is coming up. That was just a major play. A major part of the game. Saved two runs for us. That was huge."

Video: NYY@TB: McCutchen leads off 3rd with homer to left

HE SAID IT
"I don't think it's fair for them to call it a 'bullpen day.' More like a 'closer day.' They all just kind of come in there and have wipeout stuff from the second that [Chad] Green steps on the mound and from then on out [their pitchers] are very special." -- Rays manager Kevin Cash

Video: NYY@TB: Britton retires Bauers to earn 7th save

UP NEXT
Right-hander Luis Severino (18-8, 3.38 ERA) draws the start on Tuesday at 7:10 p.m. ET as the Yankees continue their four-game series with the Rays at Tropicana Field. Severino is coming off a sharp effort against the Red Sox in which he allowed a run over seven innings, picking up his first win since Aug. 26. Severino is 2-1 with a 3.54 ERA in three starts vs. Tampa Bay this year. Jake Faria (4-3, 5.17) will start for the Rays.

Bryan Hoch has covered the Yankees for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and on Facebook.

New York Yankees, Dellin Betances, Zach Britton, Brett Gardner, Sonny Gray, Aaron Hicks, Jonathan Holder, Aaron Judge, Andrew McCutchen, David Robertson, Giancarlo Stanton