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St. Louis at Chicago

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St. Louis «1110002005110
Chi. Cubs000001000180

Cards earn right to celebrate with victory over Cubs

CBS SportsLine.com wire reports
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CHICAGO -- They waited two days to celebrate their NL Central championship and then the St. Louis Cardinals cut loose.

In a wild and raucous clubhouse with champagne and beer flowing and spraying, the Cardinals doused one another and toasted a title they had actually clinched Thursday.

They decided to put off the partying until their 95th victory, which they got Saturday by beating by the Chicago Cubs 5-1. Now there's no chance the second-place Houston Astros could tie their win total with a miracle finish.

"It never gets old having the opportunity to throw some champagne. This is so much fun," said shortstop David Eckstein, a key addition after the Cardinals lost Edgar Renteria.

"Everybody talks about how great it is, but you don't really realize it until you get to come fresh to this city (St. Louis). It's amazing," a soaked Eckstein said. "Now you know why when someone comes in, they don't want to leave."

For a while, the Cardinals didn't want to celebrate.

With a victory on Thursday night, St. Louis had already clinched the division title because even if the Astros had tied, the Cardinals held the tiebreaker on the basis of winning the season series against Houston.

But they were able to celebrate in their own time, in their own way.

After Saturday's victory, manager Tony La Russa stood by the first base coaches box and hugged his players as they walked off the field. A large contingent of red-clad Cardinals' fans cheered from around the dugout.

Minutes later, inside the clubhouse, it was bedlam. Abraham Nunez, who'd never been to the postseason in eight years with the Pirates, got to pop the first cork.

A relatively dry La Russa was conducting his postgame news conference in his office with a towel on his shoulder when he was escorted to the center of the tiny visiting clubhouse at Wrigley Field, surrounded and then drenched from all directions.

"You don't have much room in this clubhouse to get away," first baseman Albert Pujols said.

"It's a real dream come true to win here," La Russa said. "Roland Hemond once told me to enjoy the moment and that's what I'm going to do. The hardest thing to do is win the division. It takes six months. Now we can look forward to playing in October."

St. Louis, swept by Boston in the World Series last year, has won four of the last six division titles.

"Another opportunity for the World Series. A lot of players retire and never get the opportunity for this," Pujols said.

Mark Mulder (16-7), another key offseason acquisition, allowed eight hits and a run in seven innings and helped himself with a squeeze bunt and single off Greg Maddux to get his first win since Aug. 22.

"Everyone was making such a big deal about when we would clinch. Now we can concentrate on moving on to the playoffs," Mulder said.

Maddux (12-13) will get three more starts to try and keep his remarkable streak of 15-win seasons intact. He won at least 15 games for a major league-record 17 straight seasons, a stretch that started in 1988 in the third year of his first stint with the Cubs. The 39-year-old right-hander, who has 317 career wins, hasn't had a losing record since going 6-14 in 1987.

Manager Dusty Baker said after the game that Maddux would get the third and extra start.

"I don't care if we're out of it or not, if I've got a chance to pitch, I want to," Maddux said, adding that the 15-victory plateau is not that big of a deal.

"Probably not. For me, it's always been about pitching," he said.

"It's always been about trying to find out how good you are. Every fifth day, you try to find out, 'How good can I be today?' If I get to do that an extra time this year, I'm more than happy to do it."

Maddux went 6 1/3 innings, giving up 10 hits and five runs.

The Cardinals manufactured runs in the first and second innings. David Eckstein led off with a single and on a hit-and-run reached second as Jim Edmonds hit back to Maddux. Larry Walker's two-out single made it 1-0.

Mark Grudzielanek walked in the second and after Nunez forced him at second, Einar Diaz dropped a single to right to put runners at first and third. With Nunez breaking for the plate, Mulder dropped down a perfect squeeze bunt for a 2-0 lead.

Edmonds' fly to center hit the top of the ivy and bounced off for a third-inning double as Cubs center fielder Corey Patterson looked up and apparently thought it was a homer. Edmonds then made third on a grounder and scored on Walker's second RBI single.

Jeromy Burnitz hit his 23rd homer in the sixth to end Mulder's shutout bid. But Mulder beat out an infield hit and scored all the way from first on Eckstein's double off the left-field wall for a 4-1 lead in the seventh. Edmonds followed with another RBI double to finish Maddux and give the Cardinals a four-run cushion.

Notes

  • Cubs OF Jerry Hairston has a deep bone contusion after fouling a ball off his left knee Friday. Trainer Mark O'Neal said he's not sure when Hairston can play again but added he doesn't expect him to miss all of the final two weeks.
  • Pujols, trying to catch Chicago's Derrek Lee for the batting title, went 1-for-4. Lee was 1-for-3 and hit a hard smash to short in the fifth and was thrown out on a great play by the 5-foot-7 Eckstein, who snagged the high hop and saved a run. Pujols is batting .335, Lee .341.
 
Copyright 2014 by STATS LLC and The Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and The Associated Press is strictly prohibited.
 
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Larry Walker adds a little beer to the champagne showering down on Cards reliever Julian Tavarez.  (AP)
Larry Walker adds a little beer to the champagne showering down on Cards reliever Julian Tavarez. (AP)

Players of the Game
St. Louis

J. Edmonds
AB 4
R 1
H 2
HR 0
RBI 1
St. Louis

M. Mulder
IP 7.0
H 8
ER 1
BB 2
K 3
 
St. Louis Cardinals
David Eckstein, SS5221001 .288
Jim Edmonds, CF4121010 .260
Albert Pujols, 1B4010103 .335
Larry Walker, RF4022103 .276
Reggie Sanders, LF3010011 .272
    So Taguchi, LF1000002 .292
Mark Grudzielanek, 2B3010111 .294
Abraham Nunez, 3B4100011 .291
Einar Diaz, C4010000 .211
    Yadier Molina, C0000000 .259
Mark Mulder, P2111000 .148
    Al Reyes, P0000000 .000
   a- John Mabry, PH1000000 .251
    Jason Isringhausen, P0000000 .000
Totals3551153412 
a-flied out for Reyes in the 9th
Batting
2B - David Eckstein (24, Maddux), Jim Edmonds 2 (35, Maddux, Maddux)
SH - Mark Mulder (1)
RBI - David Eckstein (55), Jim Edmonds (84), Larry Walker 2 (48), Mark Mulder (3)
2-OUT RBI - Larry Walker (21)
SB - Larry Walker (2, 2nd base off Maddux/Blanco)
CS - Mark Grudzielanek (6, 2nd base by Mitre/Blanco)
Team LOB - 8
Fielding
DP - Eckstein-Grudzielanek-Pujols, Eckstein-Pujols
St. Louis Cardinals
Mark Mulder (W,16-7) 7811231 3.43
Al Reyes 1000110 2.34
Jason Isringhausen 1000010 2.21
WP - Mark Mulder (8)
Pitches-Strikes - Mark Mulder 100-65, Al Reyes 27-17, Jason Isringhausen 11-8
Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Mark Mulder 13-3, Al Reyes 1-1, Jason Isringhausen 2-0
Batters Faced - Mark Mulder 29, Al Reyes 4, Jason Isringhausen 3
Chicago Cubs
Jose Macias, 2B-CF4010001 .267
Neifi Perez, SS4020002 .277
Derrek Lee, 1B3010111 .341
Nomar Garciaparra, 3B4000002 .270
Jeromy Burnitz, RF3121112 .266
Matt Murton, LF4020001 .337
Corey Patterson, CF2000011 .217
    Sergio Mitre, P0000000 .364
   a- Ben Grieve, PH1000010 .294
Henry Blanco, C3000101 .245
Greg Maddux, P2000002 .194
    Todd Walker, 2B2000011 .303
Totals321813514 
a-struck out for Mitre in the 9th
Batting
2B - Jose Macias (8, Mulder)
HR - Jeromy Burnitz (23, Mulder)
SH - Corey Patterson (5)
RBI - Jeromy Burnitz (82)
Team LOB - 8
Fielding
DP - Maddux-Perez-Lee, Blanco-Perez
Chicago Cubs
Greg Maddux (L,12-13) 6.11055130 4.31
Sergio Mitre 2.2100210 5.43
IBB - Walker by Sergio Mitre
HBP - Edmonds (by Sergio Mitre)
WP - Sergio Mitre (5)
Pitches-Strikes - Greg Maddux 102-66, Sergio Mitre 46-23
Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Greg Maddux 13-2, Sergio Mitre 4-2
Batters Faced - Greg Maddux 29, Sergio Mitre 11
Game Information
Attendance - 39269
Game Time - 2:57
Temperature - 72
Umpires - Home - Larry Vanover, First Base - Randy Marsh, Second Base - Jim Wolf, Third Base - Sam Holbrook