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Rays, Cards win playoff spots in frenzied finish

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By Associated Press

Pretty neat way to warm up for the playoffs, huh?

A benchwarmer hitting .108 saves Tampa Bay. A $142 million star lets it slip away for Boston. A rookie closer falters in Atlanta. An ace delivers for St. Louis.

Wild-card Wednesday lived up to its billing, and then some. Fans needed three TVs, and maybe a few cups of joe to see how it all turned out for Joe Maddon, Joe Girardi and Chipper Jones.

"One of the greatest days in baseball history," New York Yankees star Mark Teixeira said.

Minute by minute, inning by inning, the races took shape. One out to go, one strike to go. Then, it all fell apart. Startling comebacks, historic collapses.

And when Evan Longoria hit his second home run of the game, connecting after midnight at Tropicana Field in the 12th inning to lift the Rays over the Yankees 8-7, everything was all set.

It's not even October yet. So get ready, no rest for the bleary eyed.

The playoffs start Friday, and a marquee matchup is already on deck at Yankee Stadium. Justin Verlander, having won the pitchers' Triple Crown by leading the AL in wins, ERA and strikeouts, starts for Detroit against New York ace CC Sabathia at 8:37 p.m. EDT.


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