The St Louis Cardinals and the Los Angeles Dodgers secured play-off spots with victories on Saturday. Adam Wainwright's 19th win of the season helped the Cardinals to defeat the Colorado Rockies 6-3 and gain their fourth National League (NL) Central Division title in six years.
The Dodgers beat the Pittsburgh Pirates 8-4 to assure themselves of at least the wild card berth. Wainwright struck out 11 while allowing 10 hits and three runs over eight innings for the victory. He joined the New York Yankees' CC Sabathia in a tie for the most wins this season in the major leagues. Jason LaRue's solo home run broke a 3-3 tie in the seventh before the Cardinals scored two more runs in the ninth.
The loss left the Rockies only two and a half games ahead of the Atlanta Braves in the NL wild card race with seven games to play. "He [Wainwright] might have won the [Cy Young] award in the eighth inning," the Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said. "If you had given me the ball in the ninth, I would have sprinted out there," Wainwright insisted. The Rockies manager Jim Tracy admitted his team were helpless in the circumstances.
"This is a type of ball club that if you don't settle in quickly, they're going to make you pay, because they're deep," Tracy said. "Their line up is extremely deep. There's no real window of opportunity with this club." Meanwhile, a four-run burst in the eighth inning assured the Dodgers of post-season play. Their manager Joe Torre is heading to the play-offs for a record-tying 14th consecutive time - something only the Braves' Bobby Cox has accomplished. "I don't know who I caught, but it's satisfying to be able to go to the post-season the first two years here," said Torre, the former Yankees manager. "I'm the luckiest guy because I don't know if anybody could dream of doing stuff like this, much less doing it."
And Randy Wolf strengthened his case to be the Dodgers' No 1 starter in the play-offs, limiting the Pirates to two runs and four hits in six and a third innings, although he did not get the decision. "To me, it's nice to know that we're going to be in the post-season because the last 10 or 11 years, I've been watching at home," Wolf said. "It's definitely special to me and I'll appreciate it every second of it. Today, we had a toast - you can't let it go by and not recognise it - because it's a big accomplishment, but we didn't want to overdo it."
The Philadelphia Phillies' lead in the NL East dropped to five games as they lost 7-5 to the Milwaukee Brewers following a tight game. On a night which saw the Brewers' attendance for the season pass three million, Ryan Braun hit his 30th home run in the ninth to seal the win. The Braves made it five successive wins as their 11-5 defeat of the Washington Nationals was their second victory against the same opposition in as many nights.
The Braves kept their NL wild card hopes alive with the win as Tommy Hanson made few mistakes. Mike Morse's three-run homer was a highlight for the Nationals. Aramis Ramirez hit a homer and Jake Fox drove in a pair as the Chicago Cubs enjoyed a 6-2 victory over San Francisco. Tom Gorzelanny limited the Giants to one run on five hits over five strong innings. The Cincinnati Reds won for a ninth consecutive time over the Houston Astros, this 10-4 win coming courtesy of a Laynce Nix home run in the second and Juan Francisco and Corky Miller each had two RBIs. The Astros' Felipe Paulino allowed eight runs in his five-inning start.
The Florida Marlins were 9-6 winners against the New York Mets. They scored seven runs in the fifth inning as they continued their pursuit of an unlikely play-off spot. The Arizona Diamondbacks defeated the San Diego Padres 8-5. * With agencies