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Baseball: Reds clinch first playoff spot in 15 years

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By Associated Press

CINCINNATI (AP) — Jay Bruce raised both index fingers as he rounded first base and took the final steps toward a long-awaited championship. Jubilant Reds teammates streamed toward the plate while fireworks went off overhead.

Fifteen years of futility had just ended with Bruce's dramatic swing.

Bruce homered on the first pitch from Tim Byrdak leading off the ninth inning Tuesday for a 3-2 victory over the Houston Astros, securing an improbable NL Central title for a franchise that has gone through some of the worst times in its history.

Nine straight losing seasons. A 15-year playoff drought. All washed away with one home run and an eye-stinging clubhouse spray.

"There's nothing like it," said Bruce, who repeatedly got doused with bottles of Korbel champagne and 24-ounce cans of beer in the clubhouse.

The 23-year-old outfielder, part of Cincinnati's young nucleus, provided a fitting finish to the championship drive. Cincinnati has won 22 games in its last at-bat, second-most in the majors.

Drama found them all season as they got into contention early, then held off the heavily favored Cardinals in a tight-as-could be race.