Playoff lineup: Giants, Braves earn berths

The Tampa Bay Rays will be home for the playoffs, the New York Yankees will be traveling throughout October and the San Diego Padres? Well, they're on vacation now.

That's how the baseball postseason picture looked after the dust settled following a wild final day Sunday.

Tampa Bay rallied to beat the Kansas City Royals, 3-2, in 12 innings, winning its second American League East title in three seasons while the Yankees, who started the day tied with Tampa Bay in the division race, lost to the Boston Red Sox, 8-4.

The Rays will open the playoffs in St. Petersburg on Wednesday, playing host to the West Division champion Texas Rangers, while the Yankees, the AL wild-card entry, will travel to Minnesota to play the Twins.

In the National League, the Padres' manic charge at a postseason berth came up just short when they were shut out by Jonathan Sanchez and five relievers in a 3-0 Giants win in San Francisco. A San Diego victory would have left the Padres and Giants tied atop the West after 162 games. And even with the loss, the Padres would still have had a chance at a wild-card berth if the Atlanta Braves had fallen Sunday.

But the Braves held off a late Philadelphia Phillies comeback to win 8-7 in Atlanta, sending retiring manager Bobby Cox to the postseason one final time.

The Giants, meanwhile, will prepare for the Braves, who come to San Francisco to start the division playoffs Thursday while the East Division champion Phillies, with a baseball-best 97 regular-season wins, will play host to the Cincinnati Reds, the Central Division champions, on Wednesday.

The defending World Series champion Yankees stumbled into the postseason, losing eight of their last 11, blowing a chance at the division title and the home-field advantage that goes with it. Instead they'll open up in Minnesota, where the Twins have the best home record in the league.

But if manager Joe Girardi is concerned, he was masking it Sunday.

"The goal is not to win the division," he told reporters in Boston, where the Yankees ended their regular season. "The goal is to win the whole thing. It hasn't been our best baseball, but you can throw that away. We won 95 games in an extremely tough division. In our division, that gets you the wild card."

The postseason appearance is the 49th for the Yankees, their 15th in 16 seasons and their fourth as a wild card. But they're a game under .500 since Aug. 1. And though they were in first place on Labor Day, they failed to hold that lead — the first time that has happened to them since World War II.

The Twins have also struggled after clinching their division title, losing eight of their last 10 and being held to just a run four times in that span. Besides, they've been swept in the division series in their past two playoff appearances — including by the Yankees last season — and they're 2-12 in their last four playoff series.

But they're batting .282 at Target Field and have a capable rotation topped by former Yankee Carl Pavano (17-11. 3.75 ERA) and Francisco Liriano (14-10, 3.62).

Thanks to the Yankees' loss, the Rays had secured the division title by way of a tiebreaker by the time they entered the final innings of their game in Kansas City. But they added an exclamation to the title, rallying for two game-tying runs in the ninth, then beating the Royals in the 12th to finish with a league-best 96 victories.

In San Francisco, the stout Giant pitching staff made a pair of third-inning runs stand to lock up the division title and the team's first postseason invitation since 2003.

Sanchez started the rally with a one-out triple. After another out, Freddy Sanchez singled him home, then scored himself on former Oriole Aubrey Huff's double.

Buster Posey tacked on an insurance run with an eighth-inning homer.

"It's been grand," said Padres manager Bud Black, whose team, despite operating with the second-lowest opening-day payroll in the majors, held a 6½-game division lead Aug. 25. " … To be able to play in a game like this, it's good stuff. These are the games that gets your heart pumping, get your stomach going. It's good stuff."

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