Rays, Yankees clinch; Reds win division; Padres fall in both races

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Five cuts from Tuesday’s action:

1. The Rays clinch a playoff berth in front of friends and family. When Carlos Peña’s fifth-inning home run landed in the nether regions of Tropicana Field’s rightfield bleachers, it landed in a sea of blue seats, with no fans either three rows in front or in back of its landing spot. With no one there to catch it — or even try to catch it — the ball ricocheted high in the air.

To be fair, Peña’s blast, his 28th of the season, reached the back of the section, but that half-empty section was not unique at the Trop on Tuesday night, as only 17,981 watched the Rays celebrate clinching their second playoff berth in franchise history.

2. New Yankees will support Core Four in postseason. The Yankees also clinched a playoff berth on Tuesday by defeating the Blue Jays 6-1, their 15th appearance in the last 16 seasons. Two of the Yankees likely to be among their most important players this postseason are no strangers to October baseball but new to the team’s postseason tradition: centerfielder Curtis Granderson and reliever Kerry Wood.

When he was acquired by the Yankees in the offseason, Granderson seemed poised to exceed his career-high total of 30 home runs from 2009 because he already had more of a flyball swing than Johnny Damon, who hit 24 home runs for the Yankees last year. Instead he struggled for the first two-thirds of the season and was out of the starting lineup on Aug. 9 and 10 so that hitting coach Kevin Long could help rework his swing. Granderson was batting .240 with a .307 OBP with just 10 homers in 86 games.

3. The Reds walk off with the NL Central. Batting in the ninth inning of a tie game, rightfielder Jay Bruce belted a home run over Great American Ballpark’s centerfield fence. When Bruce touched home plate, the Reds didn’t just beat the Astros 3-2 on a walk-off home run but secured their first postseason trip since 1995.

Despite the dramatic headline-grabbing playoff-clinching moment, it was the performance of Cincinnati starter Edinson Volquez that ought to have excited fans most. The Reds won the Central primarily by bludgeoning opponents with their offense’s NL-leading 768 runs, but that style of play doesn’t always succeed in October.

Full story: Rays, Yankees clinch; Reds win division; Padres fall in both races – Joe Lemire –