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Baseball-Pirates earn home field for playoff vs Reds

Reuters

* Pirates to host Reds in wild card showdown

* Three AL teams still battling for two wild card berths (Updates after Cleveland win)

Sept 28 (Reuters) - The Pittsburgh Pirates muscled their way to home field advantage for Tuesday's National League wild card playoff game by belting six home runs in an 8-3 victory over Central Division rivals the Cincinnati Reds on Saturday.

Second baseman Neil Walker led the assault with a pair of homers off Cincinnati starter Bronson Arroyo, with Andrew McCutchen, Pedro Alvarez, Marlon Byrd and Andrew Lambo also clearing the fences for the visiting Pirates.

The win improved Pittsburgh's record to 93-68 and dropped the Reds to 90-71 with one game remaining in the regular season.

It also assured the Pirates' long-suffering fans of their first home playoff game in Pittsburgh in 21 years in a do-or-die showdown contest for entry to the best-of-five Division Series.

In the American League, the Cleveland Indians clinched themselves more baseball beyond Sunday's regular season finale by beating Minnesota 5-1 to squeeze ahead of the Texas Rangers and Tampa Bay Rays in the scramble for two wild card berths.

Cleveland's win lifted their record to 91-70.

The Rays slipped back with a 7-2 road loss to East Division cellar dwellers the Toronto Blue Jays, allowing the Rangers to tie Tampa Bay with a 90-71 record after beating the Los Angeles Angels 7-4.

Cleveland first baseman Carlos Santana snapped a scoreless tie with a two-run homer in the fourth inning and center fielder Michael Bourn added a two-run triple as the Indians scored three more runs in the fifth inning for the extra cushion.

A win against the Twins (66-95) on Sunday would assure Cleveland of one of the wild card berths. A defeat could open the door to a three-way deadlock in the wild card standings.

A two-way tie for the second wild card would force a one-game decider between Tampa Bay and Texas.

Should there be a three-way tie, the Indians would host the Rays on Monday with the winner claiming one of the wild cards.

The loser would travel to Texas to play a do-or-die contest against the Rangers on Tuesday for the second wild card spot. The wild card winners would battle on Wednesday with that winner advancing to the best-of-five Division Series.

(Reporting by Larry Fine in New York, Editing by Gene Cherry)

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