PRO BASEBALL

RailCats clinch first playoff spot since joining American Association

2013-08-31T22:00:00Z 2013-09-02T23:52:13Z RailCats clinch first playoff spot since joining American AssociationHillary Smith hillary.smith@nwi.com, (219) 933-3233 nwitimes.com

GARY | The RailCats' celebration on the field was subdued, and there's a reason for that.

"This is a big accomplishment to win to get to the playoffs, but I didn't prepare this year and come here this year to get to the playoffs. I came here to win a championship," outfielder Adam Klein said. "Nobody remembers the teams that make it to a championship. They remember the teams that win. I didn't personally want to have a big celebration, because, don't get me wrong, it's a big accomplishment, but we came here to win a championship. You'll see a lot more celebration then."

As the 'Cats clinched their playoff spot with a 7-4 win over El Paso on Saturday, they poured a little champagne then retired to the clubhouse for the regular postgame awards.

This is business as usual at U.S. Steel Yard, even though "business" has been on hiatus for two years.

"It's been a common goal from Day 1. We said it: we're here to win a championship," veteran outfielder Mike Massaro said. "Through the good times and the bad, we've had the same goal. It's a great feeling, and that's why we're here, to win a championship."

The RailCats scattered 15 hits, and the bullpen backed up Billy Spottiswood for his sixth win of the year against the Diablos.

The RailCats entered their final series of the year with a magic number of one for the second time in three years. In 2011, they were swept in the finale missing the postseason for the first time since manager Greg Tagert took over the team. They 'Cats finished with a 50-50 record in 2012.

This year, the goal was no secret when players arrived in April for spring training.

"We've talked about this since day one of spring training, how well this club competes and how important it is to be on the field together and how important winning is and winning together," Tagert said. "They care deeply for one another."

Despite falling behind 1-0 in the first inning, and then after taking a 3-1 lead watching as the Diablos chipped back within 5-4 in the eighth inning, the RailCats didn't acquiesce. Behind a single, triple and double in the eighth inning, all hit with two out, the 'Cats broke the Diablos' back for the final score.

"We hit a couple bumps there as we did in the season," Tagert said. "If it wasn't difficult, it wouldn't be fun."

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