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Dodgers clinch postseason spot

Posted: Sunday, October 03, 2004

LOS ANGELES -- The Dodgers are finally back in the playoffs.

Steve Finley's grand slam capped a seven-run rally in the bottom of the ninth inning and Los Angeles won the NL West, beating the San Francisco Giants 7-3 on Saturday.

The Dodgers reached the postseason for the first time since making it as the wild card in 1996. They won the division the year before -- now, they'll look to win their first postseason game since upsetting Oakland in the 1988 World Series. It's still not certain who the Dodgers will play in the first round, though they'll open on the road.

Barry Bonds and the Giants can still make it back to the postseason. If they beat the Dodgers on Sunday and Houston loses to Colorado, San Francisco would host the Astros Monday afternoon. The winner would get the wild card.

Trailing 3-0, the Dodgers loaded the bases with one out on a single by Shawn Green and two walks by Dustin Hermanson (6-9), who was pulled after walking Hee-Seop Choi with the bases loaded to force in a run.

Astros 9, Rockies 3

HOUSTON -- Roy Oswalt became the NL's first 20-game winner, and Jeff Kent and Craig Biggio each homered twice, giving the Astros the wild-card lead.

The Astros's 17th straight home victory gave them a one-game lead over the San Francisco Giants, who lost 7-3 to the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Chicago Cubs were eliminated from the postseason race after losing their fifth straight, 8-6 to Atlanta.

With a victory in the regular-season finale Sunday or a Giants loss, Houston will clinch the NL's final playoff spot -- an improbable thought almost a month ago when it was four games below .500 and seven games behind the Cubs.

Braves 8, Cubs 6

CHICAGO -- Now make it 59 years without a World Series appearance by the Chicago Cubs.

A season that started with such high hopes for the Cubs wound up with them being eliminated from playoff contention by their fifth straight loss. The Cubs led the NL wild-card race by 1 1/2 games before dropping seven of eight.

Brewers 5, Cardinals 1

ST. LOUIS -- Ben Sheets (12-14) pitched his fifth complete game of the season and Milwaukee took advantage of a shaky playoff tuneup by Jason Marquis (15-7) for a victory over the Cardinals.

The NL Central champions have lost five of six with one game to go in the regular season and at 104-57 missed a chance to tie the franchise record of 106 victories set in 1942. They're 7-7 since clinching the division on Sept. 18.

Pirates 3, Reds 1

CINCINNATI -- Jason Kendall had three hits and Jose Castillo homered off the Cincinnati Reds' record-smashing pitching staff for Pittsburgh.

The emotional highlight came in the eighth, when Barry Larkin got a standing ovation for a pinch-hit single, then left for a pinch-runner. The 40-year-old shortstop is wrapping up his 19th and possibly final season with the Reds.

Marlins 4, Phillies 3

PHILADELPHIA -- Mike Lowell and Miguel Cabrera homered to lead Florida over Philadelphia, hours after the Phillies fired manager Larry Bowa.

Bowa led the Phillies to consecutive winning seasons for the first time in 21 years, but they failed to reach the playoffs for the 11th straight season after coming in as favorites to win the NL East.

Expos 6, Mets 3

NEW YORK -- Brad Wilkerson hit a tiebreaking three-run homer in the ninth inning in the Expos' next-to-last game before moving to Washington.

Wilkerson, who also had two doubles, connected against reliever Braden Looper (2-5) after an error by Kaz Matsui -- making his second start at second base -- and a walk to pinch-hitter Ryan Church.

Diamondbacks 7, Padres 6

PHOENIX -- Randy Johnson got some rare offensive support, including his own two-run double, and the Diamondbacks rallied from a five-run deficit.

Johnson (16-14) allowed six runs -- only one earned -- and 10 hits in eight innings. He struck out eight and walked none to cap a strong season made more impressive by the struggles of the Diamondbacks, who have lost 111 games.

It was the first time in 11 starts that Arizona scored more than three runs for Johnson, the major league strikeouts leader with 290.

Greg Aquino pitched the ninth for his 15th save.

Mike Bynum (0-1) took the loss even though he gave up just one hit in two-thirds of an inning.



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