ST. LOUIS -- The St. Louis Cardinals became the first major league team to clinch a playoff spot this season, winning the NL Central for the third
time in five seasons.
A few hours after the Cardinals beat the Arizona Diamondbacks 7-0 Saturday, the playoff berth was clinched when San Francisco lost to San Diego 5-1.
When the Chicago Cubs lost 6-5 at Cincinnati, the division title was assured.
St. Louis (97-50) can only be matched in the division by the Cubs (81-65), who lost the season series with the Cardinals 11-8. In addition, the
Giants' loss meant that the second-place teams in both the NL East and NL West will have 96 wins or fewer.
Because of that, if the Cardinals and the Cubs were to finish in a tie, both would be guaranteed playoff berths. Under baseball's rules, St. Louis
would be awarded the division title because it won the season series.
As for the game, Chris Carpenter felt a twinge in his biceps and called it a day after pitching just three-plus innings. He and the Cardinals thought
a serious injury probably was avoided by the decision.
The 15-game winner left in the fourth inning with a strained right biceps, but four relievers helped complete a six-hitter. Carpenter is expected to
miss only one start, partly because he didn't try to gut it out.
"It's against normal pitching, they keep going," catcher Mike Matheny said. "Fortunately, I think he stopped in time to give us a chance to let the
trainers get him right. Hopefully, that'll be the case."
Carpenter has become the Cardinals' ace after missing all of last season following a pair of elbow operations. He has pitched seven or more innings in
"As the year's gone on, I've gotten stronger, my velocity has increased, my location is getting better and my recovery time between starts is getting
better," Carpenter said. "Everything was turning into this magical thing and this is an unfortunate little bump.
"But I've been through a lot more bumps than these, so I'm not concerned about this."
Carpenter said he was injured making a pitch on a cut fastball to Shea Hillenbrand, who singled with one out in the fourth. There were no early
warning signs during warmups or earlier in the game.
"I felt great in the pen, I felt great throwing, everything was good," Carpenter said. "But I've been through too much to risk it."
Dan Haren, one of the team's top pitching prospects, relieved Carpenter on Saturday and likely will take Carpenter's next turn in the rotation.
"I'm good to go," Haren said. "I feel real fresh right now."