ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — B.J. Upton hit a game-ending, three-run homer off Vicente Padilla, capping Tampa Bay’s six-run ninth inning and lifting the Rays to a sorely needed 7-4 victory over the Boston Red Soxon Thursday night.
Tampa Bay salvaged a split of the four-game series and remained 5½ games back of Oakland for the second AL wild-card slot. The Rays (80-70) have 12 games left on their schedule.
Andrew Bailey (1-1) gave up four hits and a walk before Padilla came in to face Upton, who drove a 2-1 pitch over the wall in center for his 24th homer.
Burke Badenhop (2-2) recorded one out to get the win.
Clay Buchholz outpitched Tampa Bay ace David Price, tossing seven innings of four-hit ball before handing a 2-0 lead to the Boston bullpen. Mauro Gomez hit a two-out RBI triple in the eighth for the Red Sox, but they couldn’t hold on for the victory.
Jose Iglesias had three hits for Boston, including his first career home run. Ryan Lavarnway and Gomez each had two hits and an RBI.
It was only the third win in the last 10 games for the Rays.
REDS 5, CUBS 3:The Cincinnati Reds became the first team in the majors to clinch a playoff spot this season, beating the Chicago Cubs 5-3 Thursday while manager Dusty Baker remained in a hospital after being diagnosed with an irregular heartbeat.
Ace Johnny Cueto and the NL Central leaders ensured themselves of at least a wild-card spot. Cincinnati cut its magic number to two for winning the division for the second time in three years.
The Reds said Baker would remain in a Chicago hospital for an additional day so doctors could monitor his progress. He left Wrigley Field before Wednesday night’s game and underwent another test Thursday.
Baker is hoping to return to Cincinnati on Friday. Bench coach Chris Speier ran the team for a second straight game.
Cueto (18-9) pitched six shutout innings as the Reds completed a three-game sweep. Alfredo Simon got four outs for his first save.
The Reds broke a scoreless tie by getting five straight singles off Manuel Corpas (0-2) in the seventh during a five-run rally capped by Henry Rodriguez’s two-run double.
CARDINALS 5, ASTROS 4: Pinch-hitter Carlos Beltran snapped a sixth-inning tie with a two-run double and Allen Craig hit a three-run homer, powering the Cardinals to a season sweep at home against the Astros.
Beltran’s double put St. Louis up 5-3, rewarding Jaime Garcia (5-7) for keeping it close and putting the Cardinals 2½ games up for the second NL wild card with 12 games remaining. They took care of business against the lowly Astros, who absorbed their 102nd loss while leading for a single inning in the three-game series.
The Cardinals were 6-0 at home against Houston, their first season series sweep in St. Louis since 1996.
Bud Norris (5-13) allowed five runs in 5 1-3 innings for Houston after getting sent back to the team hotel Wednesday night suffering from flu-like symptoms.
Jason Motte finished for his 38th save in 45 chances.
BREWERS 9, PIRATES 7: Rickie Weeks hit a tying two-run triple and scored the go-ahead run on Aramis Ramirez’s single, helping surging Milwaukee rally for the victory.
The Brewers have won five straight, eight of nine and 15 of 19 to climb into the playoff race. They remained 2½ games back of St. Louis for the second NL wild-card slot.
Milwaukee trailed 7-4 before it rallied for four runs in the eighth inning.
Ramirez had three hits and three RBIs for the Brewers, who built an early 4-0 lead.
Pittsburgh star Andrew McCutchen hit a three-run drive for his 30th homer. Chris Resop (1-4) got the loss.
The Pirates (74-75) have dropped three straight and 11 of 13 to slip under .500 for the first time since late May. They are in danger of a 20th straight losing season, which would extend their major North American professional sports record.
Manny Parra (2-3) picked up the win and John Axford worked the ninth for his 31st save in 39 chances.
GIANTS 9, ROCKIES 2: Pablo Sandoval homered from both sides of the plate and the NL West-leading Giants reduced their magic number to clinch the division to four.
Buster Posey also connected to back another strong start by Barry Zito (13-8) as San Francisco completed a four-game series sweep.
Zito won his fifth straight decision and has done everything he can to earn himself a spot in the postseason rotation after being left off all three rounds for the 2010 World Series champions.
The second-place Dodgers were set for a night game at Washington, trailing by 9½ games. San Francisco (87-63) moved a season-best 24 games above .500.
Colorado has lost six in a row. Jorge De La Rosa (0-1) was tagged for five earned runs, six in all, and seven hits in 3 2-3 innings.
PADRES 6, DIAMONDBACKS 5: Jesus Guzman homered to help San Diego get the victory.
Clayton Richard (14-12) allowed four runs and eight hits in six innings to raise his career record against Arizona to 6-0 — including three wins in three starts at Chase Field over the past 10 weeks.
Anthony Bass, the last of five Padres pitchers in the ninth, struck out Aaron Hill on a checked swing for his first career save.
Adam Eaton hit his first career home run and Hill also went deep for the Diamondbacks, who had won three in a row. Justin Upton had three hits and scored twice.
Diamondbacks starter Tyler Skaggs (1-3) pitched in and out of trouble while allowing four runs and seven hits over five innings.