NL: Cardinals wrap up Central title

Associated Press
Published September 16, 2005

CHICAGO - The St. Louis Cardinals clinched another Central title Thursday night in what has become a customary experience under manager Tony La Russa.

Jeff Suppan allowed six hits over eight-plus innings and the Cardinals beat the Cubs 6-1 in a game called with two outs in the bottom of the ninth after a 58-minute rain delay.

St. Louis' fourth Central title in the past six years made the Cardinals the first team to clinch a playoff berth this season.

The victory over the Cubs coupled with Atlanta's win over Philadelphia gave St. Louis (94-54) the division title because Houston could at best match the Cardinals at 94 wins, with both teams assured of playoff berths at that figure. St. Louis has the tiebreaker because it clinched the season series against the Astros.

La Russa said the Cards won't pop the corks until they win another game and officially finish with more victories than the Astros could muster.

"You have to show respect for the other guys," first baseman Albert Pujols said. "It's good to know we have a spot in the playoffs but still you don't want to take things for granted."

Running away with the division for a second straight season, the Cards moved into first place on April 16 and never left.

ASTROS 4, MARLINS 1: Andy Pettitte allowed one run over eight innings to win his sixth straight start and put host Houston back in the wild-card lead where the Astros were when the series started.

Houston took a half-game lead over Florida and Philadelphia. Houston and Florida split their four-game series, the last games against each other.

Florida, which went 6-5 on its road trip, begins a three-game series at home today against the Phillies. Houston remains home to play Milwaukee.

Pettitte scattered five hits and struck out five. Aside from Miguel Cabrera's 32nd homer leading off the seventh, the left-hander allowed five baserunners, three of whom were erased by double-play grounders. He is 13-3 with a 1.50 ERA since June 20 - the most wins and best ERA in the major leagues during that span.

Brad Lidge struck out the side in the ninth for his 37th save in 40 chances.

DODGERS 7, GIANTS 1: Rookie Willy Aybar drove in a career-high three runs, Jose Cruz hit a run-scoring triple and Derek Lowe won his third straight decision for visiting Los Angeles.

Aybar, recalled from Triple-A Las Vegas on Aug. 28, hit a two-run single in the second and singled in a run in the third.

The Giants' Barry Bonds, making his third start since coming off the 60-day disabled list Monday, had everybody gasping when he hit a towering shot that splashed into McCovey Cove beyond the rightfield fence - but it was foul by 2 feet. A canoeist in the cove jumped out to retrieve the ball. Bonds flied out to center four pitches later.

In his first at-bat, Bonds grounded out. He flied out to center in the seventh, and a mass exodus of fans followed moments later.

NATIONALS 6, METS 5 (10): Vinny Castilla drove in the go-ahead run with two outs in the 10th for visiting Washington after Braden Looper and New York's sloppy defense wasted a ninth-inning lead. The Nationals swept the three-game series and open a three-game set at West leader San Diego today.

Trailing 5-4 in the ninth, Nationals pinch-hitter Ryan Zimmerman led off with a single to right, taking second when the ball got past Gerald Williams for an error. Pinch-runner Kenny Kelly took third on a groundout and Looper hit pinch-hitter Jose Guillen. With the infield in, Brad Wilkerson's grounder went under the glove of second baseman Kaz Matsui for another error to tie the score.

Cliff Floyd hit a grand slam and Jose Reyes homered for the Mets, who have lost 15 of 18. New York fell to 2-12 in September.

BRAVES 6, PHILLIES 4: Chipper Jones hit two homers and tied his career high with five RBIs, helping visiting Atlanta avert a four-game sweep. Jones hit a three-run homer in the third and a two-run shot in the seventh for his 32nd career multihomer game. Kyle Farnsworth retired Chase Utley on a grounder to first to leave runners at second and third in the eighth, but gave up a homer to Ryan Howard in the ninth.

BREWERS 14, D'BACKS 2: Tomo Ohka pitched seven strong innings, Bill Hall had a career-high five hits and Chad Moeller drove in four runs for visiting Milwaukee. Ohka had a perfect game until rookie Conor Jackson singled with two out in the fifth. Ohka also drove in two runs.