Cardinals 7, Brewers 4

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MILWAUKEE (AP)—The St. Louis Cardinals broke out the champagne and sprayed their way around a raucous clubhouse, celebrating their NL Central championship.

Two days after they clinched it.

Albert Pujols’ go-ahead single keyed a three-run ninth inning, and the Cardinals beat the Milwaukee Brewers 7-4 Monday night for their major league-leading 98th victory.

Under baseball’s tiebreaker rules, St. Louis ensured its third division title in five seasons on Saturday when the Cardinals beat Arizona 7-0, and San Francisco and the Chicago Cubs both lost.

But manager Tony La Russa refused to acknowledge that his team had already won the crown, both before and after Sunday’s 3-2 loss to Arizona.

La Russa wanted to clinch it on the field. He stormed out of his postgame news conference after angrily responding to a question about delaying the traditional champagne celebration.

So the bubbly just sat, chilling for two extra days—until the Cardinals let loose Monday night.

“The only thing that made this thing better was to do it yesterday at Busch Stadium,” a drenched La Russa said, standing in front of lockers shielded by floor-to-ceiling plastic. “That’s why we were disappointed, because we cared. But this is a great moment.”

The Cardinals came to Milwaukee ready to party.

They packed up more than 20 cases of champagne and boxes of championship hats and T-shirts and had the team’s clubhouse attendants drive it all up to Miller Park in two pickup trucks that arrived 45 minutes before Monday’s game.

After Trent Durrington made the final out, the Cardinals rushed out of their dugout and lined up to congratulate each other.

La Russa stood at the end of the line and hugged the players before they ducked into the tunnel to the clubhouse and the waiting tubs of champagne and beer.

On the field they were subdued, but once they got in the locker room, the party began. Wearing division championship hats and T-shirts that sat locked up for two days like the champagne, they sprayed each other and even a few club officials and their wives who were trying to stay out of the way.

The celebration even extended out into Miller Park. Eight Cardinals players went into the empty stands near the mascot’s home run slide. A few hardy ones even slid down the slide before stopping for a group picture.

“In a division as tough as ours, this has great meaning for us,” La Russa said. “We worked hard to get to this.”

St. Louis capitalized on Luis Vizcaino’s wildness to tie it at 4 in the eighth, then went ahead with three runs in the ninth for its 44th comeback win.

Dan Kolb (0-4) gave up a single to Tony Womack in the ninth and a walk to So Taguchi before Pujols lined a single to center to drive in Womack. One out later, Roger Cedeno drove in Taguchi with an infield single, and Edgar Renteria knocked in Pujols with a single, chasing Kolb.

In the eighth, Renteria doubled with one out off Vizcaino. Mike Matheny hit into a fielder’s choice and Ray Lankford pinch-ran for him. With Jim Edmonds pinch-hitting, Lankford advanced to third on a pair of wild pitches. After Edmonds walked, Lankford scored on a passed ball to tie the game.

“Just look at everybody that did something,” La Russa said. “Tony Womack, So Taguchi had an outstanding game, Albert, Reggie (Sanders), Renteria, Cedeno comes off the bench, (John) Mabry comes off the bench and does something.”

Julian Tavarez (7-4) got the final out in the eighth for the win. Jason Isringhausen pitched a perfect ninth for his 43rd save in 50 chances.

“This is the best team we’ve had in the last four years,” Pujols said. “We have guys who can play the game. That’s what this is all about.

“Now, we have to get to the World Series.”

The Cardinals’ rally sent the Brewers to their seventh straight loss.

“They have a tremendous offense,” Milwaukee manager Ned Yost said. “Their pitching is very solid. They have a great manager and coaching staff that does a fabulous job.”

In the seventh, a suicide squeeze by Bill Hall gave the Brewers a 4-3 lead.

Reliever Mike Adams couldn’t hold a 3-2 lead in the top of the seventh for the Brewers.

Marlon Anderson singled and stole second before Taguchi’s two-out double tied the game. Pujols was walked intentionally before Vizcaino took over.

Matt Morris made his team-leading 31st start for St. Louis. He left after five innings with the score tied at 2.

Morris allowed one earned run and five hits. He walked one and struck out seven.

The Cardinals jumped ahead 2-0 on sacrifice flies by Pujols and Womack.


The Cardinals started Taguchi in center field to give Edmonds a rest. … Womack’s single extended his hitting streak to a season-high 13 games. … Cardinals 3B Scott Rolen missed his ninth straight start with a strained left calf.

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