St. Louis manager Tony La Russa isn’t quite ready to celebrate the Cardinals’ fourth NL Central title in six years.
He hopes to do so when the Cardinals continue a four-game series with the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field.
“We understand we’re officially in October baseball,” La Russa said after a 6-1 victory over the Cubs on Thursday gave the Cardinals the title by virtue of a tiebreaker over second-place Houston. “It happened last year and again this year. It just doesn’t seem right to celebrate when your magic number is one.”
Thursday’s victory, coupled with Atlanta’s 6-4 win over Philadelphia gave St. Louis the division title because Houston could at best match the Cardinals at 94 wins, with both teams assured of playoff berths at that figure. St. Louis has the tiebreaker because it clinched the season series against the Astros.
But just like last season after they had clinched, La Russa wouldn’t officially acknowledge the title until the Cardinals’ magic number over second-place Houston is zero.
“You have to show respect for the other guys,” first baseman Albert Pujols said. “It’s good to know we have a spot in the playoffs but still you don’t want to take things for granted.”
Cubs first baseman Derrek Lee was with the Florida Marlins when they clinched the NL pennant at Wrigley Field in 2003. He doesn’t want to watch the Cardinals celebrate the division title on the same field.
“It seems inevitable that they’re going to clinch, but we don’t want a party here,” Lee said.
Lee homered Thursday, and leads the majors with a .340 batting average. He is second to Atlanta’s Andruw Jones (50) with 43 home runs.
The Cubs have lost two straight and three of their last four.