ST. LOUIS -- The St. Louis Cardinals clinched their first NL Central title in four years, beating the Chicago Cubs 7-0 Friday night behind the strong pitching of Lance Lynn and home runs by David Freese and Matt Holliday.
St. Louis (95-65) has won six of seven and is tied with Atlanta for the best record in the NL. They are assured of home-field advantage when the NL division series starts Thursday.
Adam Wainwright (18-9) was moved up to start Saturday, putting the St. Louis ace on track to start his team's postseason opener against Cincinnati, Pittsburgh or the Los Angeles Dodgers (see full recap).
Pirates beat Reds for leg up to host wild card
CINCINNATI -- Marlon Byrd had three hits and Pedro Alvarez hit a two-run homer high off the batter's eye on Friday night, leading the Pittsburgh Pirates over the Cincinnati Reds 4-1 in a series that will decide the NL wild-card game host.
Both teams clinched postseason berths this week. The Pirates' chances of winning the NL Central ended later Friday night when St. Louis beat the Cubs 7-0 to clinch the title.
So now it comes down to who gets to host the wild-card playoff next Tuesday night, and the Pirates are one win away from taking it to PNC Park (see full recap).
Indians force tie atop AL wild card
MINNEAPOLIS -- Carlos Santana and Asdrubal Cabrera both had two doubles and Jason Kipnis was a homer short of the cycle as the Cleveland Indians had 17 hits in a 12-6 victory over the Minnesota Twins on Friday night.
With the win and Tampa Bay's loss at Toronto, the Indians moved into a tie with the Rays for the two AL wild cards, one game ahead of Texas, which beat Los Angeles. Cleveland has won eight straight and 13 of 15, taking advantage of a schedule that ends with 10 games against Houston, the Chicago White Sox and the Twins, the three worst teams in the AL this season.
Indians starter Corey Kluber (11-5) managed to win his fifth straight decision. He started the game with three scoreless innings, but then allowed 10 of the next 16 hitters to reach and was knocked out with one out in the sixth. Kluber gave up six earned runs and 10 hits, but walked only one and struck out five (see full recap).
Rangers still in playoff hunt with win
ARLINGTON, Texas -- Alex Rios had a tiebreaking RBI single in the seventh inning, and the Texas Rangers finally gained some ground in the AL wild-card race with a 5-3 victory over the Los Angeles Angels on Friday night.
For the first time during their five-game winning streak, the Rangers moved closer in the wild-card standings.
Wild-card leader Tampa Bay lost at Toronto, dropping the Rays into a tie with Cleveland, which beat Minnesota, for the two spots. The Rangers are a game back.
With two games left in the regular season, the Rangers still have a chance to go to the postseason for the fourth year in a row (see full recap).
Sloppy Rays lose seven-game winning streak
TORONTO -- The Tampa Bay Rays picked a bad time for their worst defensive performance of the season.
R.A. Dickey slowed Tampa Bay's stretch run, leading the Toronto Blue Jays to a 6-3 victory Friday night that stopped the Rays' seven-game winning streak.
"One of those games," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "We've been on a pretty good run. Go get a good night's sleep and come back tomorrow."
Tampa Bay wasted a 2-0 lead and committed a season-high three errors, including a pair by two-time Gold Glove third baseman Evan Longoria (see full recap).