CHICAGO Jeff Suppan allowed six hits over eight-plus innings and St. Louis beat Chicago 6-1 on Thursday night to clinch the NL Central for the fourth time in six years. The game was called with two outs in the bottom of the ninth after a 58-minute rain delay.
The Cardinals, who lost to the Boston Red Sox in the World Series last year, are the first team to clinch a playoff berth this season.
The victory over the Cubs coupled with Atlanta’s 6-4 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.
St. Louis jumped on Mark Prior for three first-inning runs as David Eckstein and Albert Pujols singled, Larry Walker doubled in a run, John Rodriguez had an RBI grounder and Abraham Nunez beat out a run-scoring infield single to short.
Suppan (15-10) retired 13 straight after a third-inning single by Todd Walker before Neifi Perez singled in the eighth.
Braves 6, Phillies 4
PHILADELPHIA Chipper Jones hit two homers and tied his career-high with five RBIs, helping Atlanta avert a four-game sweep.
The Braves extended their lead in the NL East over the Phillies and Florida Marlins to six games. Houston, which beat Florida 4-1 on Thursday night, moved to the front of the wild-card standings, one-half game ahead of Philadelphia and Florida.
Jorge Sosa (12-3) allowed two runs and seven hits in 5 2-3 innings for the Braves and Adam LaRoche had a solo homer.
Astros 4, Marlins 1
HOUSTON Andy Pettitte allowed one run over eight innings to win his sixth straight start and Houston moved back in front of the wild-card race.
The Astros (78-68) took a half-game lead over Florida and Philadelphia, which lost to Atlanta, in the wild-card race. Houston and Florida split their four-game series, the last games against each other this season.
Pettitte (16-9) 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.
Brewers 14, Diamondbacks 2
PHOENIX Bill Hall had a career-high five hits and Chad Moeller drove in four runs for Milwaukee.
Jeff Cirillo went 3-for-4 with two walks and three RBIs, including a two-run homer against reliever Jason Bulger in the sixth inning to make it 14-0.
Carlos Lee had a two-run shot for the Brewers, who won for the seventh time in 10 games. Milwaukee had 19 hits and tied a season high with its 14 runs.
Nationals 6, Mets 5, 10 innings
NEW YORK Vinny Castilla drove in the go-ahead run with a two-out single in the 10th inning and Washington completed the three-game sweep of New York.
Cliff Floyd hit a grand slam and Jose Reyes also homered for the Mets, who have lost 15 of 18. New York fought back from a three-run deficit to take the lead, but closer Braden Looper blew a save in the ninth and the Mets fell to 2-12 in September.
Dodgers 7, Giants 1
SAN FRANCISCO Rookie Willy Aybar drove in a career-high three runs, Jose Cruz Jr. hit an RBI triple and Derek Lowe won his third straight decision for Los Angeles.
Aybar hit a two-run single in the second and singled in another run in the third.
Barry Bonds, making his third start since coming off the 60-day disabled list Monday, hit a towering shot that splashed into McCovey Cove beyond the right-field fence but it was foul by two feet. He was 0-for-3.
KANSAS CITY, Mo. John Buck hit a two-run double to key Kansas City’s four-run seventh inning, and the Royals beat Chicago 7-5 on Thursday to cut the White Sox’s lead over idle Cleveland in the AL Central to 4 1/2 games.
The Royals started the season losing 10 straight to Chicago but has won two in a row and five of the last eight.
Reliever Ambiorix Burgos (2-5) got the victory, giving up two runs in 1 1-3 innings.
Mark Buehrle (15-8) allowed four runs and nine hits over 6 1-3 innings.
Yankees 9, Devil Rays 5
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. Alex Rodriguez hit his 42nd home run and Robinson Cano erased a four-run deficit with a grand slam, helping Aaron Small and New York rally to beat Tampa Bay.
Small (8-0) became the first pitcher to win his first eight decisions with the Yankees since Doug Bird in 1980 and ’81, and New York’s fourth straight win continued its strong push in the AL East and wild-card races. Coupled with Boston’s loss to Oakland, the Yankees pulled 1 1/2 games behind the Red Sox in the division and one-half game of idle Cleveland for the AL wild card.
Athletics 6, Red Sox 2
BOSTON Mark Kotsay singled in two runs before Curt Schilling recorded his first out, and Mark Ellis also drove in a pair of runs as Oakland beat Boston.
The East-leading Red Sox fell to 1 1/2 games in front of the New York Yankees, who beat the Tampa Bay Devil Rays 9-5; the Yankees had not been that close since Aug. 29.
Joe Blanton (10-11) returned to his stingy ways, allowing just two runs on six hits and two walks while striking out three in 6 1-3 innings. Before giving up four runs in his last outing, he had allowed two or fewer in nine consecutive starts.
Rangers 4, Mariners 3
ARLINGTON, Texas Michael Young reached 200 hits for the third straight season and Gary Matthews Jr. had a tiebreaking sacrifice fly to lead the Texas Rangers over the Seattle Mariners 4-3 Thursday night.
Kameron Loe (9-5) pitched 5 1-3 innings and left with the 3-2 lead despite making three errors in his sixth major league start. He allowed two runs and six hits, struck out two and walked four. Loe had two throwing errors and a fielding miscue, but Seattle scored only one unearned run as a result of the errors and left 13 runners on base.
Francisco Cordero gave up an RBI single to Adrian Beltre in the ninth, but got the final three outs for his 32nd save in 40 chances.
Tigers 8, Angels 6
ANAHEIM, Calif. Curtis Granderson had a three-run inside-the-park homer and Magglio Ordonez and Craig Monroe also homered as Detroit beat slumping Los Angeles.
The Angels lost their fourth in a row, dropping them into a first-place tie in the AL West with Oakland, which beat Boston 6-2.
Mike Maroth (13-13) got the victory, allowing six runs on seven hits in six innings, striking out two and walking two. Craig Dingman pitched the ninth for his fourth save in five chances.
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