HRs help Cubs beat Cardinals, clinch playoff spot

The Cardinals began the day a half-game behind the New York Mets and a full game behind the Giants for one of the two wild-card spots.

ST. LOUIS (AP) Anthony Rizzo hit a pair of home runs and Jon Lester pitched eight dominant innings as the Chicago Cubs beat the St. Louis Cardinals 7-0 on Wednesday to clinch at least a wild-card playoff berth.

The Cubs improved their MLB-best record to 93-52 and their magic number is one to clinch their first National League Central title since 2008. Chicago secured a playoff berth because St. Louis and San Francisco are the only teams that could catch them in the standings, but since those teams open a four-game series on Thursday both teams wouldn't be able to do so.

The Cardinals began the day a half-game behind the New York Mets and a full game behind the Giants for one of the two wild-card spots.

Lester (17-4) allowed four base runners, none of which got past first. Cubs catcher David Ross threw out two Cardinals trying to steal second and Lester faced just two batters over the minimum.

Lester improved to 7-0 with a 1.02 ERA in his last nine starts. He also helped his cause at the plate with an RBI single in the third.

Rizzo's two-run homer in the ninth gave him 31 homers and 101 RBIs on the season. He is the second Cubs left-handed hitter in franchise history to post multiple 30 home run and 100 RBI seasons (Billy Williams did it in 1965, 1970 and 1972).

Ross' two-run homer in the fifth snapped a 0-for-8 streak and it was his first home run since Aug. 17.

St. Louis starter Carlos Martinez (14-8) gave up four runs and eight hits in six innings.

Martinez started off strong, striking out the side in the first and four of the first six batters he faced. Five of his nine strikeouts came on called third strikes. He entered the game having allowed just 12 homers this season and his home run per nine innings average of 0.63 was second in the National League to the Mets' Noah Syndergaard (0.52).

Ross' home run was just third by a right-handed batter against Martinez, who had his four winning decisions streak snapped.

The loss dropped the Cardinals' home record to 33-41, assuring St. Louis of its first losing record at home since 1999 when it played in Busch Stadium II.

TRAINERS ROOM

Cardinals: RHP Michael Wacha (right shoulder inflammation) was activated from the disabled list and will pitch out of the bullpen ... OF Matt Holliday (fractured right thumb) is expected to take live batting practice later this week. . RHP Trevor Rosenthal (right shoulder inflammation) could be activated from the DL tomorrow.

UP NEXT

Cubs: LHP Mike Montgomery (1-1, 3.67 ERA) will kick off a four-game series as Chicago hosts Milwaukee on Thursday. The Brewers counter with RHP Jimmy Nelson (14-7, 4.42 ERA)

Cardinals: RHP Adam Wainwright (11-8, 4.45) will look to build on a one run, eight inning performance in his last start as St. Louis travels to San Francisco for a four-game series Thursday. RHP Johnny Cueto (15-5, 2.90) will start for the Giants.


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