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Old 16 Sep 2005, 12:06 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Default Cards first to clinch

Cards clinch NL Central crown in rain-shortened game


Sep. 16, 2005
CBS SportsLine.com wire reports





CHICAGO -- The St. Louis Cardinals clinched another NL 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 Chicago 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 NL Central title in the last six years made the Cardinals the first team to clinch a playoff berth this season. Now they hope to find their way back to the World Series where they were swept last year by the Boston Red Sox.

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.

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

They quickly took care of what they needed to Thursday night.

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.

Derrek Lee's 43rd homer leading off the bottom of the ninth ended Suppan's night and ruined his shutout bid. As rain began to fall, the Cubs loaded the bases against Al Reyes. Catcher Yadier Molina missed Henry Blanco's foul popup that would have ended the game and then Blanco reached to load the bases when Eckstein slipped and fell fielding his grounder to short just before the delay.

The Cards scored three runs in the eighth as Larry Walker was walked by Todd Wellemeyer with the bases loaded, Rodriguez added a sacrifice fly and a third run scored on an error.

The Cardinals made changes this season and kept clicking: Mark Mulder joined the rotation; Eckstein and Mark Grudzielanek formed a new double play combo; and Molina took over for reliable Mike Matheny behind the plate.

The emergence of 21-game winner Chris Carpenter as the staff ace and solid starting pitching all season helped the Cardinals overcome injuries to Scott Rolen, Reggie Sanders, Walker and Molina.

"We've been really concerned the whole second half that a stretch of bad play was right in front of us and I think that's kept us pushing and we've been able to avoid it," La Russa said. "I don't want to lose that concern even though we're starting to get healthy."

After being swept by the Red Sox a year ago, the Cardinals are aware that winning in the regular season means little once the playoffs begin. A year ago they finished 105-57 and won the NL Central by 13 games.

"There are two challenges for a club, the first is the regular season, a six-month grind. So if you happen to win your division and qualify for October, I think that is the hardest thing to do," La Russa said.

"But you separate it because it's not the most important thing, just the hardest. The reason you want to win the division is so you can play in October, get to and win the World Series. That's a different kind of challenge."

Prior (11-6) allowed six hits and three runs in five innings. He threw 35 pitches in the long opening inning.
Notes

Beaned by a pitch from Cincinnati's Matt Belisle on Wednesday night, Cubs C Michael Barrett said Thursday that tests showed he was OK. He was still lightheaded, he said, but could return to the lineup Friday. ... Grudzielanek was out of the lineup. He had returned Wednesday after missing a week with a sore back, but La Russa said the former Cub would be back Friday. ... On a 65-degree night, the wind was blowing in at 16 mph. ... The Cardinals are 5-8 against the Cubs this season, the only division team they have a losing record against.

AP NEWS
The Associated Press News Service

Copyright 2004-2005, The Associated Press, All Rights Reserved

http://cbs.sportsline.com/print/mlb/...050915_STL@CHC
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Old 16 Sep 2005, 04:12 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Thier manager is on steriods!!!!!!!!!!!
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Old 16 Sep 2005, 05:57 PM   #3 (permalink)
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Spear should cut his own throat and bleed to death.Spear should cut his own throat and bleed to death.Spear should cut his own throat and bleed to death.Spear should cut his own throat and bleed to death.Spear should cut his own throat and bleed to death.Spear should cut his own throat and bleed to death.Spear should cut his own throat and bleed to death.Spear should cut his own throat and bleed to death.Spear should cut his own throat and bleed to death.Spear should cut his own throat and bleed to death.Spear should cut his own throat and bleed to death.
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^^Saw that one coming.
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Old 16 Sep 2005, 06:30 PM   #4 (permalink)
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All without Scott Rolen. Good job to St Louis.
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Old 16 Sep 2005, 09:03 PM   #5 (permalink)
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They, along with the Angels, are the most fun teams to watch in my opinion.
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Old 16 Sep 2005, 09:06 PM   #6 (permalink)
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I think we all knew that was coming...
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