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Associated Press
Pittsburgh’s Starling Marte celebrates his home run off Chicago relief pitcher Kevin Gregg in the ninth inning Monday.

Homer in 9th puts Pirates in postseason

– The Pittsburgh Pirates are headed to the playoffs for the first time in 21 years, clinching at least a National League wild card Monday night when they beat the Chicago Cubs 2-1 and the Washington Nationals lost to St. Louis.

It will be Pittsburgh’s first trip to the postseason since winning three straight NL East titles from 1990-92. The small-budget Pirates had piled up 20 consecutive losing records – the longest streak in the four major professional sports.

Starling Marte hit a tiebreaking homer in the ninth inning at Wrigley Field, and the Pirates threw out a runner at the plate for the final out.

The Cincinnati Reds also clinched at least a wild-card berth, when they beat the New York Mets. The Pirates and Reds, both 90-67, trail St. Louis by two games in the NL Central with five to go.

The Pirates snapped a 1-all tie when Marte sent a drive off Kevin Gregg (2-6) with two outs in the ninth into the left field bleachers.

They preserved the victory on the final out when center fielder Andrew McCutchen picked up Ryan Sweeney’s bloop single after the ball hit off right fielder Marlon Byrd’s glove and threw to first baseman Justin Morneau who made the relay to catcher Russell Martin, who applied the tag on Nate Schierholtz.

CARDINALS 4, NATIONALS 3: In St. Louis, Carlos Beltran homered, Adam Wainwright earned his 18th win and St. Louis beat Washington, eliminating the Nationals from playoff contention.

Cardinals reduced their magic number to four.

BREWERS 5, BRAVES 0: In Atlanta, Marco Estrada pitched seven innings, Carlos Gomez and Jonathan Lucroy homered and Milwaukee beat Atlanta.

The NL East champion Braves are 1 1/2 games ahead of the St. Louis Cardinals for the league’s best record.

MARLINS 4, PHILLIES 0: In Miami, Nathan Eovaldi pitched into the eighth inning to help Miami beat Philadelphia.

The Phillies’ Roy Halladay (4-5) left the game with right arm fatigue after walking two of the first three batters he faced.


RANGERS 12, ASTROS 0: In Arlington, Texas, Alex Rios hit for the cycle, Derek Holland struck out nine in his second shutout of the season and Texas started its final push for a playoff spot with a victory over Houston. The Rangers pulled within a game of idle Cleveland for the second AL wild-card berth with six games remaining.

WHITE SOX 3, BLUE JAYS 2: In Chicago, Jose Quintana pitched into the eighth inning and rookie Marcus Semien hit his first homer to lead Chicago past Toronto.

Quintana (9-6) allowed two runs on five hits in 7 1/3 innings. Addison Reed earned his 39th save.