Astros' loss gives Cards third straight NL Central title

ST. LOUIS -- The St. Louis Cardinals clinched their third
straight NL Central title Sunday when the second-place Houston Astros lost 3-1 in Atlanta.

A sellout crowd at Busch Stadium stood and broke into an
impromptu tomahawk chop in the fifth inning, when the final score
of Houston's game was shown on the scoreboard. The Cardinals were
losing 5-0 to Milwaukee at the time.

Fans were clearly preoccupied by the Braves' victory over
Houston, a game that began about an hour earlier. The loss
eliminated the Astros from playoff contention.

A big cheer went up even before the final score was posted on
the scoreboard. Cardinals manager Tony La Russa hugged several
players in the dugout during a brief stoppage before play resumed.

At the end of the fifth, there were more cheers when the team's
sixth trip to the postseason in seven years was recognized on the
scoreboard with the words: "NL Central Division Champs 2006."