The Cincinnati Reds and Washington Nationals became the first Major League Baseball teams to clinch playoff berths on Thursday, while the wild card races at the top of both the National and American Leagues continued to heat up.


The Nationals (91-58) beat the Los Angeles Dodgers 4-1 to secure at least an NL wild card place and bring playoff baseball back to the U.S. capital for the first time since 1933 when the Washington Senators were playing in the World Series.

There has been little reason to celebrate since the Montreal Expos relocated to Washington in 2005 as the Nationals finished last in the NL East five of seven seasons, twice losing more than 100 games.

However, fans were smiling at Nationals Park on Thursday as the franchise secured a postseason slot for the first time since the Expos came within a game of advancing to the 1981 Fall Classic.

Ross Detwiler (10-6) pitched six solid innings, surrendering three hits and one run on a Mark Ellis homer, but got support early as Washington scored twice in both the third and fourth innings.

The loss was a blow to the Dodgers, who fell three games behind St. Louis in the race for the second NL wild card.

The Reds (91-59) were the first team to punch their postseason ticket with a 5-3 win over the Chicago Cubs to complete a three-game sweep at Wrigley Field.

The win guaranteed them at least a wild card spot and maintained an 11-game lead in the NL Central.

Johnny Cueto (18-9) tossed six shutout innings and the Reds did all their scoring in a five-run seventh keyed by a two-run double by Henry Rodriguez.

“A lot of guys had very good games, and they’re the reason we’re going to leave Chicago with a sweep,” said Reds’ Joey Votto.

The St Louis Cardinals (80-70) trail the Reds by 11 games in the Central but the World Series champions are still clinging to a wild card spot after a 5-4 win over the Houston Astros.

Allen Craig slammed a three-run homer and Carlos Beltran had a key two-run double as the Cardinals notched their fourth win in a row.

WRITTEN BY Steve Keating in Toronto; Editing by Peter Rutherford) & FULL STORY HERE

Photo via ESPN