Cardinals clinch Central crown

DENVER (AP) - Jason LaRue, subbing at catcher for injured All-Star Yadier Molina, homered off Ubaldo Jimenez to break a seventh-inning tie and the St. Louis Cardinals clinched the NL Central crown when they beat the Colorado Rockies 6-3 Saturday night behind Adam Wainwright's 19th victory.

Colorado's lead in the NL wild-card race shrunk to 2 1/2 games over Atlanta.

The Cardinals, the first major league team to win its division, are headed back to the playoffs for the first time since winning the 2006 World Series. They became the third team to secure a playoff spot, joining the New York Yankees and Los Angeles Dodgers.

Wainwright (19-8) allowed three runs, two earned, and 10 hits over eight innings while also contributing a pair of two-out doubles. He walked one and struck out 11.

Ryan Ludwick pinch-hit for Wainwright in the ninth and cracked a two-run homer off Matt Daley, giving closer Ryan Franklin a three-run cushion to work with.

Franklin got his 38th save in 43 tries.

Jimenez (14-12) gave up four runs on seven hits over seven innings.

Dodgers 8, Pirates 4

PITTSBURGH (AP) - The Dodgers locked up their fourth playoff appearance in six years, getting a two-run single from pinch-hitter Jim Thome during a four-run eighth inning in which Pirates relievers walked four.

Manager Joe Torre is headed to the postseason for a record-tying 14th straight time - only the Braves' Bobby Cox has accomplished the feat - after the Dodgers assured themselves of at least a wild-card spot. They also cut their magic number to two for winning the NL West for the second consecutive season.

Any combination of Dodgers victories and Rockies losses totaling two will give Los Angeles its first back-to-back division titles since 1977-78.

George Sherrill (1-0) got the win.

Denny Bautista (1-1) took the loss. Pittsburgh is four losses from its third 100-loss season in 55 years.

Cubs 6, Giants 2

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) - Aramis Ramirez homered, Jake Fox hit a two-run single and Chicago beat San Francisco for its sixth win in seven games.

Tom Gorzelanny (7-2) won consecutive starts for the first time all season and his third straight decision, following Carlos Zambrano's two-hit gem a night earlier with five solid innings of his own. The left-hander returned to the rotation Sept. 21 after a 3 1/2-week stint in the bullpen.

Gorzelanny allowed one run and five hits, struck out five and walked three. Acquired by the Cubs on July 30 from Pittsburgh, he hadn't won consecutive starts since Aug. 22 and 28, 2007, with the Pirates.

Barry Zito (10-13) gave up four runs and six hits in four innings for the Giants, who absorbed their seventh loss in 10 games and are spiraling downward to seriously diminish their chances in the wild-card race.

Braves 11, Nationals 5

WASHINGTON (AP) - Tommy Hanson pitched seven innings for his 11th win, Yunel Escobar drove in three runs and the Braves earned their fifth consecutive victory.

Atlanta pulled within 2 1/2 games of Colorado for the NL wild card. The Braves (84-70) have won 13 of 15 and are 50-30 since June 27, improving to a season-best 14 games over .500.

Hanson (11-4) allowed four hits and four runs - three of them on Mike Morse's pinch-hit homer. The impressive rookie, who made his major league debut on June 7, struck out seven and walked one.

Garrett Mock (3-10), who lost his fifth consecutive decision, allowed six runs, four earned, and seven hits in five innings.

Brian McCann hit a two-run homer in Atlanta's five-run ninth.

Brewers 7, Phillies 5

MILWAUKEE (AP) - Ryan Braun hit a two-run homer off reliever Tyler Walker in the ninth inning, giving Milwaukee a victory over Philadelphia.

It was Braun's 30th home run of the season and second career game-ending homer. The loss went to Walker (2-1), one of the pitchers the Phillies were considering as a replacement for struggling closer Brad Lidge.

With the loss, the Phillies' magic number for clinching the NL East remained at four. Ryan Howard hit his 43rd home run for Philadelphia.

Trevor Hoffman (2-2) pitched a scoreless ninth for the win.

Marlins 9, Mets 6

MIAMI (AP) - Injury replacement Cameron Maybin hit a three-run homer in Florida's seven-run fifth and the Marlins rallied to beat New York Mets.

Maybin ran for Cody Ross in the fourth inning after Ross was hit on the left hand by a pitch from John Maine (6-6). Maybin hit his third homer an inning later to give Florida a 7-3 cushion.

Maine allowed seven runs and seven hits in 4 2-3 innings.

Sean West (8-6) worked five innings for Florida, yielding three runs, two earned, and seven hits. Brendan Donnelly got his first save.

Reds 10, Astros 4

HOUSTON (AP) - Jay Bruce and Laynce Nix homered and drove in three runs apiece, helping Cincinnati beat Houston for its sixth consecutive win.

Juan Francisco and Corky Miller each had two RBIs for the Reds, who have won 10 of 12 and 23 of 33 overall. They beat the Astros for the ninth straight time.

Miguel Tejada was 4 for 4 with two RBIs for the Astros, who have lost 11 of 12 and dropped to 1-4 under interim manager Dave Clark.

Justin Lehr (5-2) went five innings for Cincinnati, yielding four runs and six hits.

Nix hit a two-run drive off Felipe Paulino (2-11).

Diamondbacks 8, Padres 5

PHOENIX (AP) - Seldom-used Chad Tracy snapped an 0-for-18 slump with a pinch-hit grand slam in the seventh inning, sending Daniel Schlereth to his first major league win in Arizona's victory over San Diego.

Tracy hit an 0-2 pitch from Luke Gregerson (2-4) into the swimming pool area in right-center to conclude the scoring. It was his third career slam.

Mark Reynolds hit his 44th homer for Arizona, which had lost five of six and 15 of 20.

Juan Gutierrez hit two batters with pitches with two outs in the ninth but retired Oscar Salazar for his seventh save.

San Diego had won three straight. The Padres are 15-8 in September and 34-22 since July 28, the second-best record in the National League.

Schlereth (1-4), Arizona's first-round pick in the 2008 draft, escaped a jam in the seventh.


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