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Associated Press
Reds players celebrate after beating the Dodgers on Saturday in Cincinnati to clinch the NL Central title.

Baker-less Reds first to clinch division

– General manager Walt Jocketty hit the “send” button on his cellphone right at the final out, informing his manager that the Reds’ championship celebration was on.

And with a familiar swing getting them there.

Jay Bruce was Cincinnati’s Mr. Clinch again, hitting the homer that started the Reds toward a 6-0 win over the Los Angeles Dodgers on Saturday that made good on their second try for the title. The only thing missing was the manager.

Dusty Baker spent another day in a Chicago hospital getting treated for an irregular heartbeat. Jocketty texted congratulations to the 63-year-old Baker on his fifth division title as a manager, including two during the last three years with Cincinnati.

The players toasted Baker before drenching each other.

“It’s a shame he’s not here,” third baseman Scott Rolen said. “He digs this stuff. He’s missed, there’s no doubt about that.”

The Reds videotaped the celebration, along with best wishes, to send to Baker. When they clinched two years ago, Baker wound up in the middle of a players’ huddle, getting joyously soaked.

The 2010 party started with a dramatic Bruce homer, a first-pitch leadoff shot in the ninth against Houston’s Tim Byrdak. On Saturday, he led off the fourth inning with a first-pitch homer off rookie Stephen Fife (0-2), putting Cincinnati ahead to stay with his team-leading 34th of the season.

“It’s not the same as two years ago, but I’ll take it,” Bruce said. “We’ve been taking care of business for quite a while, so we knew this was coming. Today is a nutshell of what we’ve been doing all season.”

Mat Latos (13-4) gave up six hits and didn’t walk a batter in eight innings. Left-hander Aroldis Chapman made his first appearance since Sept. 10 – a tired shoulder had sidelined him – and finished it off by getting Hanley Ramirez to hit into a double play off a 99 mph fastball.

The celebration was on, though more subdued than two years ago.

“A couple of years ago, we were a surprise,” said Joey Votto, who was the NL MVP that season. “It kind of crept up on us. We didn’t expect it. This year, we felt we had something to prove.”

As the Reds closed in on the final outs, second baseman Brandon Phillips pretended he was shaking a bottle of champagne and spraying it everywhere while sitting on the bench in the dugout. Phillips says the only other time he’s had champagne was during the 2010 clubhouse celebration.

After the final out, players formed a huddle to the side of the mound, with pitcher Johnny Cueto spraying them with a bottle of water. An attendant rolled out a cart of gray championship shirts and hats.

Cincinnati became the first team in the majors to clinch a division title this season, leaving it with one goal left. The Reds are vying with Washington for the NL’s top seed in the playoffs, both with 92 wins that lead the majors.

It’s unclear when Baker will be back.

The three-time manager of the year also won division titles with the Giants and Cubs. Baker reached the World Series once as a manager, losing a Game 7 against the Angels in 2002, his final season in San Francisco.

The Reds had their first opportunity to take the title on Friday night, but lost 3-1 to the Dodgers in 10 innings. Bruce had a chance to win it with another game-ending homer, but struck out leading off the ninth.

A day later, Bruce connected, Phillips added a solo homer, and rookie Todd Frazier singled home a run for more than enough.

The Reds added three runs in the eighth, aided by reliever Jamey Wright’s throwing error.

The Dodgers lost for the 11th time in 16 games, a swoon that has dropped them out of a wild-card spot. They trail St. Louis by three games and Milwaukee by a half-game for the final playoff berth.

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