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Posted at 07:00 AM ET, 09/28/2011

Leading off: Wild card races come down to the final day

Games of the day: Boston at Baltimore, 7 p.m. and New York Yankees at Tampa Bay, 7:10 p.m. There is nothing better — at least until the playoffs start — than meaningful baseball on the final day of the regular season, as Boston and Tampa Bay enter their respective 162nd games tied for the American League wild card spot. Both teams won on Tuesday, forcing a scenario where either team can clinch Wednesday with a win and a loss by the other club. If both teams win or if both teams lose, they will meet in St. Petersburg on Thursday afternoon for a one-game playoff. Left-hander Jon Lester (15-9) will start on three days rest for the Red Sox, sporting a 14-0 record in 17 career starts against Baltimore. The Rays will send left-hander David Price (12-13) to the mound, hoping he is due to start another Tampa Bay win. The Rays have alternated winning and losing Price’s last eight starts, and lost when he last pitched on Friday.

Other games to watch: Philadelphia at Atlanta, 7 p.m. and St. Louis at Houston, 8 p.m. The situation is identical in the National League, where Atlanta is tied with St. Louis for the NL wild card spot with one game to play. The Braves have lost four consecutive games to give the Cardinals an opportunity, while St. Louis finally caught Atlanta with one game remaining by clubbing Houston. Right-hander Tim Hudson (16-10) will start the finale for Atlanta, facing a Phillies team aiming to set a franchise record with its 102nd win. Right-hander Chris Carpenter (10-9) will pitch against the lowly Astros for the Cardinals, who would host a one-game playoff Thursday night if both teams reamain tied.

Games you should have seen:

Boston, 8, Baltimore 7. The Orioles brought the winning run to the plate in the bottom of the ninth inning, but Jonathan Papelbon pitched out of trouble to help the Red Sox remain tied with the Rays. Rookie catcher Ryan Lavarnway hit two home runs for Boston, which hasn’t won a series since before Hurricane Irene. Lavarnway’s first home run put the Red Sox ahead 5-1 in the fourth inning, and his second home run made it 8-4 in the eighth, but the Orioles scored four runs against the Boston bullpen to make things interesting.

St. Louis 13, Houston 6. The Cardinals overcame an early 5-0 deficit, then scored four runs in the top of the seventh to beat Houston and move into a tie with the Braves. The Cardinals are 15-5 over their last 20 games, making up 8 ½ games on Atlanta in the past three weeks.

Stat you should know: 7.20. The sample size is very small, but in his one career start on three days rest, Red Sox left-hander Jon Lester allowed four earned runs in five innings for a 7.20 ERA. That might not be good enough Wednesday.

Star of the night: As the Brewers fought to secure homefield advantage in a division series, Milwaukee first baseman Prince Fielder hit three home runs in a 6-4 win against the Pirates. The Brewers entered Tuesday night one game ahead of Arizona for the second-best record in the National League, but Arizona holds the tiebreaker due to their advantage in the season series.

Chatter: “It’s like living out a bad dream.”Atlanta third baseman Chipper Jones on his team’s struggles down the stretch, which continued with Tuesday’s 7-1 loss to division rival Philadelphia. It was the Braves’ fourth consecutive loss and eighth in 11 games.

By Greg Schimmel  |  07:00 AM ET, 09/28/2011

 
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