The St. Louis Cardinals clinched the NL Central on the final day of the regular season, using Jack Flaherty’s arm and Matt Carpenter’s bat Sunday to win their first division title since 2015 with a 9-0 victory over the Chicago Cubs.
The Cubs lost on Joe Maddon’s day as their manager. It was announced before the game that he won’t return next year.
Flaherty tossed seven impressive innings and Carpenter led a three-homer attack with a three-run drive to help St. Louis advanced to the NL Division Series, starting Thursday at Atlanta.
Manager Mike Shildt and the Cardinals began the day with a one-game lead over Milwaukee. The second-place Brewers will play at Washington in the NL wild-card game Tuesday night, with the winner going on to play Los Angeles in the NLDS.
Paul Goldschmidt and Dexter Fowler also homered for St. Louis, which is back in the postseason after a three-year absence. The Cardinals have won or shared 12 division titles since the current format was developed in 1995.
St. Louis (91-71) finished three games better than last season (88-74).
The Cubs had a four-year postseason run snapped this season. Maddon compiled a 471-339 record in five seasons and guided the Cubs to the World Series championship in 2016, ending a 108-year drought.
Flaherty (11-8) allowed two hits in an efficient seven-inning 69-pitch stint. He struck out six and walked one. Flaherty has allowed just seven earned runs over his last 12 starts.
St. Louis scored twice in each of the first of two innings against Chicago starter Derek Holland (2-5). Goldschmidt, who had three hits, singled after Holland walked the first two batters.
Fowler added a two-run homer in the second for a 4-0 lead. He has a career-high 19 home runs.
Carpenter’s drive in the third off Duane Underwood Jr. pumped the lead to 8-0. Goldschmidt added his team-high 34th homer in the fourth.
Chicago finished 84-78 after a 95-68 mark in 2018.
A sellout crowd of 47,212 watched the contest pushing the Cardinals attendance to 3,480,393, an average of 42,968 per game. It marked the 22nd sellout of the season. St. Louis averaged 42,020 last season.
Chicago infielder Ben Zobrist pitched a scoreless eighth for the Cubs, striking a swinging Yadier Molina to end the inning.
PLAYING EXPERIENCED NOT NEEDED
Shildt becomes the third manager in major league history to reach the postseason without ever having played in the major or minor leagues.
He joins Pants Rowland (Chicago White Sox, 1917) and Ed Barrow (Boston Red Sox, 1918).
SING IT OUT
As has become tradition over the years, the fans sung the national anthem prior to the last home game of the season without the help of an organ.
Cardinals: INF Kolten Wong is still not at 100 percent. He remains listed as day-to-to with a left hamstring strain although he is not able to run at full speed, according to St. Louis manager Mike Shildt.
Cardinals: Will face the Atlanta Braves in the NLDS beginning Thursday in Atlanta.
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