Cardinals Clinch NL Central, Braves Win Instant Classic

By defeating the Chicago Cubs 7-0, the St. Louis Cardinals have won their first NL Central division title since 2009.  That’s ironic, because that’s twice as long as it’s been since their last World Series championship, in 2011, a year that they got into the postseason through the Wild Card.  They took the eventual champions, the San Francisco Giants, to Game 7 in the NLCS last year, after winning the NL Wild Card Game over the Atlanta Braves.  The Pirates, who until now have been focused on winning the division, are trying to claim home-field advantage for the NL Wild Card game.  This weekend they are playing the team who they will play in that game, the Cincinnati Reds.  With their 4-1 win tonight, the Pirates need to win 1 of the final 2 games of the series to clinch the home-field advantage.

The Braves’ Kris Medlen outdueled the Phillies’ Cliff Lee in an instant classic tonight, 1-0.  Medlen took a no-hitter into the 6th, and only allowed 2 in his 8 IP.  Lee only allowed 3, but the game turned on one of them, a Chris Johnson solo HR to lead off the bottom of the 8th.  Craig Kimbrel retired the side in the 9th for his 50th save, and the Braves’ 95th win.  If he allows 1 hit or less over the next two games, Kimbrel will become the second closer in history with 50 or more saves and less than 40 hits in a season (Eric Gagne, 2003).  The Braves’ broadcasters called this a “practice playoff game” based on the large crowd at Turner Field and the great pitching matchup between two of the best in the NL.  If that’s how the Braves perform in October (or as they call it, “Choptober”), they will be hard to beat, particularly at home.  Their magic number is 2 to clinch home-field advantage over the Cardinals, with whom they are tied, but own the tiebreaker.

In the AL Wild Card race, the Rays lost to the Blue Jays, the Indians beat the Twins, and the Rangers beat the Angels.  Therefore, now the Rays and Indians are tied, with the Rangers 1 game back.  Each team has 2 games remaining, and the top 2 teams after Sunday’s action will play on Wednesday in the AL Wild Card game.  As for the race for home-field advantage in the AL, the Red Sox lead the Athletics by 2.5 games.  The Athletics currently lead the Mariners, 3-1 in the 6th.

Excitement is building among baseball fans nationwide, as we are just 3 days from playoff baseball (5 days from Division Series play).

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