Sunday, September 19, 2004

NL: Cardinals clinch NL Central title

The Associated Press

ST. LOUIS - The St. Louis Cardinals became the first major league team to clinch a playoff spot this season, winning the NL Central for the third time in five seasons.

A few hours after the Cardinals beat the Arizona Diamondbacks 7-0 Saturday, the playoff berth was clinched when San Francisco lost to San Diego 5-1. When the Chicago Cubs lost 6-5 at Cincinnati, the division title was assured.

St. Louis (97-50) can only be matched in the division by the Cubs (81-65), who lost the season series with the Cardinals 11-8. In addition, the Giants' loss meant that the second-place teams in both the NL East and NL West will have 96 wins or fewer.

Because of that, if the Cardinals and the Cubs were to finish in a tie, both would be guaranteed playoff berths. Under baseball's rules, St. Louis would be awarded the division title because it won the season series.

Chris Carpenter left with an injury in the fourth inning, but four relievers helped St. Louis complete a six-hitter.

Light-hitting Mike Matheny got his fifth RBI in five games for the Cardinals, who won for only the fifth time in 11 games.

Carpenter appeared to have been hurt making a throw to first on Danny Bautista's grounder for the first out in the fourth. He left after the next batter, Shea Hillenbrand, singled.

Dan Haren (3-2) allowed two hits in 2 1-3 innings.

Ray King walked the only batter he faced, Cal Eldred allowed one hit in two innings and Al Reyes pitched the ninth for the Cardinals' 12th shutout of the season.

Fossum (4-14) lasted six innings in the loss.

Padres 5, Giants 1

SAN FRANCISCO - Barry Bonds added another home run to his impressive total a day after hitting career homer No. 700, but San Diego's Jay Payton hit a tiebreaking three-run shot in the seventh to lead the Padres past the Giants. Trevor Hoffman got his 39th save, passing Dennis Eckersley for third place on the career saves list with 391.

Rockies 8, Dodgers 1

DENVER - Joe Kennedy pitched seven innings of four-hit ball and had a two-run triple in a five-run seventh, helping Colorado beat Los Angeles.

Todd Helton was 4-for-5 and is 7-for-9 in two games since an 0-for-11 slump, Choo Freeman had a two-run single in the seventh inning and Colorado had 16 hits to end a four-game losing streak.

Braves 4, Marlins 2

MIAMI - Jaret Wright (15-7) allowed just three hits in 8 1/3 innings, and Atlanta dealt another blow to Florida's fading hopes in the NL wild-card race. J.D. Drew put the Braves ahead to stay with an RBI double in the sixth inning that snapped a scoreless tie against Josh Beckett (7-9).

Astros 4, Brewers 3

HOUSTON - Jeff Bagwell homered and drove in three runs, becoming the 29th player in major league history to both score and drive in 1,500 runs, and the Astros rallied to beat Milwaukee. The Astros won their 11th straight home game, a feat they last accomplished in 1987, and moved one game behind NL wild-card leader San Francisco and a half-game behind Chicago.

Mets 8, Pirates 7 (10)

PITTSBURGH - Mike Cameron's sacrifice fly in the 10th inning drove in the go-ahead run for New York. After the Mets blew an early 7-0 lead, Cameron flied out to deep center with one out against Salomon Torres (7-5), scoring Wilson Delgado from third base.

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