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Los Angeles Dodgers heading to playoffs for eighth straight season

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SAN DIEGO — The Los Angeles Dodgers became the first team to clinch a playoff spot in the pandemic-shortened Major League Baseball season, beating the San Diego Padres 7-5 on Wednesday behind Dustin May‘s gutty effort out of the bullpen and home runs from A.J. Pollock and Chris Taylor.

The Dodgers are heading to the postseason for the eighth straight year, the longest active streak and the third longest in MLB history, behind only the 1991-2005 Braves (14) and 1995-2007 Yankees (13).

Will Smith drove in three runs for the seven-time defending NL West champion Dodgers, who opened a 3 1/2-game lead in the division by winning two of three in the matchup of the NL’s two best teams.

Mookie Betts tied his career high with three stolen bases, had two hits and scored a run.

At 35-15, the Dodgers breezed into the expanded 16-team postseason field. Los Angeles is seeking its first World Series title since 1988.

San Diego, quieted by Dodgers pitching a second straight game even as it heads for its first playoff berth since winning the division in 2006, has lost two straight for the first time since mid-August.

San Diego’s Fernando Tatis Jr., who had been considered the NL MVP front-runner recently, went 0 for 4 to extend his slump to 2 for 27 over eight games. His average has dropped from .314 to .281.

May, who had been scheduled to start before manager Dave Roberts decided to go with a bullpen day, was the Dodgers’ third pitcher of the game. He went 5 1/3 innings and was in control until Jurickson Profar homered to right field with two outs in the seventh to pull the Padres to within 7-3. Mitch Moreland reached on an error by second baseman Gavin Lux to open the inning.

After Profar’s homer, May struck out Trent Grisham and blew off some steam by yelling a few profanities that could be heard around empty Petco Park. Grisham angered the Dodgers by briefly posing at the plate after homering off Clayton Kershaw in the Padres’ 7-2 win Monday night.

May gave up Manny Machado‘s solo homer with one out in the eighth, his 14th, and was removed from the game by Roberts.

Until the seventh, May had breezed through four innings by giving up only a single and a walk. May struck out six.

Starter Brusdar Graterol gave up a hit and a run in 1 1/3 innings before Adam Kolarek (3-0) gave up a hit and two walks in two-thirds of an inning.

Pedro Baez got the final two outs for his second save.

San Diego used nine pitchers.

Pollock homered past the palm trees to the right of the batter’s eye in straightaway center field off rookie Adrian Morejon (2-1) with two outs in the second. It was his 11th. Taylor greeted Garrett Richards with a leadoff shot into the second deck in left-center in the sixth inning for a 7-1 lead. It was Taylor’s sixth home run of the season.

San Diego tied it in the bottom of the inning. Wil Myers hit a one-out double off Graterol, who made way for Kolarek. Jason Castro doubled with two outs to bring in Myers.

The Dodgers regained the lead in the third against Joey Lucchesi, who opened the season in the rotation before being sent to the alternate training site after two starts. Making his first big league relief appearance, he gave up Max Muncy‘s two-run double and Smith’s RBI infield single in the third. Lucchesi slipped trying to field Smith’s checked-swing dribbler and the catcher beat it out for a hit.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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St. Louis Cardinals beat Milwaukee Brewers as both clinch playoff berths

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ST. LOUIS — Harrison Bader tripled and homered to help the St. Louis Cardinals clinch a postseason berth on the final day of the regular season with a 5-2 win over Milwaukee. The Brewers also earned a playoff spot Sunday via help on the West Coast moments later.

St. Louis (30-28) will be the fifth seed in the NL and open a three-game wild-card series at San Diego on Wednesday. By winning, the Cardinals avoided having to travel to Detroit for two makeup games Monday.

The Brewers (29-31) locked up the eighth seed after the Padres beat San Francisco 5-4 in a game that ended about 15 minutes later. The Giants finished with an identical record as the Brewers but lost out on a tiebreaker due to an inferior intradivision record.

Milwaukee will face the top-seeded Dodgers in Los Angeles in a three-game series that also starts Wednesday.

The Brewers haven’t had a winning record at any point this season. They are the first team ever to qualify for the playoffs with a losing mark.

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Los Angeles Angels moving on from general manager Billy Eppler

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The Los Angeles Angels announced Sunday that they would be seeking a new general manager to replace Billy Eppler.

Eppler has been the Angels GM since 2015, but the team has not made the postseason in his tenure despite having arguably the best player on the planet in Mike Trout.

Eppler previously served as assistant general manager of the Yankees from 2012-14.

The Angels are 26-33 and guaranteed of their sixth straight losing season.

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Atlanta Braves remove Ronald Acuña from lineup with renewed wrist soreness

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ATLANTA — Ronald Acuna Jr. has been removed from the Atlanta Braves‘ lineup in their regular season finale due to irritation in his left wrist.

The postseason-bound Braves say the move before Sunday’s game against Boston was made as a precaution.

Even so, the report of renewed soreness in Acuna’s wrist is cause for concern as the team prepares for the NL wild-card series. He was on the 10-day injured list due to soreness in the same wrist from Aug. 12-25.

Acuna is hitting .250 with 14 homers and 29 RBI.

Ender Inciarte replaced Acuna in center field, and Ozzie Albies moved up as the new leadoff hitter.

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