ST. LOUIS (AP) -- In Tony La Russa's version of the NL standings,
the St. Louis Cardinals still have to win one more game to clinch
the Central division title.
The Cardinals manager refused to acknowledge his team already
had clinched the division, both before and after Sunday's 3-2 loss
to the Arizona Diamondbacks.
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.
Those results guaranteed that St. Louis will finish no worse
than tied at 97 wins with the Cubs, who also would be guaranteed a
playoff berth. Under baseball's rules, St. Louis would be awarded
the Central title because it won the season series 11-8 and Chicago
would get the wild-card spot.
La Russa wants 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.
"Yeah, we're celebrating," La Russa barked. "What the hell
kind of question is that? That's a rule for the thing when you're
tied at the end of the season. We've got another 14 games to go,
The clubhouse was unusually quiet and subdued after the game.
The Cardinals start a 10-game trip Monday in Milwaukee.
"The formula says we clinched, we clinched," pitcher Jason
Marquis said. "You've got to be happy about that. But it does seem
a little depressed in here."
Drew Baur, one of the Cardinals' owners, said simply: "No
Before the game, even though T-shirts commemorating the
achievement already were on sale outside the ballpark and public
address announcer John Ulett referred to the clinching of a playoff
spot, La Russa preferred to ignore the mathematics.
On the message board just inside the clubhouse door, La Russa
wrote: "Magic # Is 1. Championship Won On Field. Not Some
"It's legitimate," La Russa said before the game. "You don't
win things because of a formula, only if it comes down to the fact
that you can't do it on the field. We can do it on the field."
There may be another reason for La Russa's stance. St. Louis
finished tied with Houston in 2001, but the Astros won the division
based on head-to-head record while the Cardinals won the wild-card
berth. Still, St. Louis tried to claim it was division co-champion,
a position the commissioner's office rejected.
Sunday's game was notable mostly for Rick Ankiel's first outing
at Busch Stadium since May 10, 2001. Ankiel, who has battled
wildness and injury, pitched two hitless innings with one walk and
four strikeouts -- striking out the side in the fifth on 14 pitches.
"Today was fun," Ankiel said. "You take them when you can get
Ankiel's previous home appearance was a mess. He threw five
pitches to the backstop in three wild innings, and was optioned to
Triple-A Memphis the following day. He then battled control
problems in the minors and had reconstructive elbow surgery in July
Arizona rookie Michael Gosling, making his fourth major league
appearance and second start, won in his first big league decision
by allowing two runs and seven hits in 5 2-3 innings. Four
relievers finished, with Greg Aquino working the ninth for his 13th
save in 14 chances.
"It's pretty neat, especially in that environment with
40,000-plus, the Cardinals trying to clinch the division outright
and a great place to play," Gosling said. "To have that first win
against a team of that caliber is pretty neat, pretty special."
Cardinals starter Jeff Suppan (15-8) threw 44 pitches in the
fourth inning, 39 with two outs. Walks to Shea Hillenbrand and
Chris Snyder sandwiched around a single by Chad Tracy loaded the
bases, and Doug DeVore's bad-hop infield hit gave Arizona its first
run. Scott Hairston followed with a two-run single for a 3-2 lead.
"I got to the point where I was probably trying to be a little
too careful," Suppan said. "I couldn't really get out of a jam
until they'd scored a few."
Larry Walker hit a two-run homer in the third, his 15th of the
season and ninth in 32 games with the Cardinals, who have lost
seven of their last 12 games. Suppan, whose previous best for wins
was 13 last year, has allowed 10 runs -- four earned -- in 7 2-3
innings during his last two starts. Still, he combined with his
bullpen on a three-hitter.
St. Louis won the season series against Arizona 5-1. ...
Tony Womack has 37 infield hits, third best in the NL. ...
Cardinals 3B Scott Rolen missed his eighth straight start with a
strained left calf, but could return in the next few days. ...
Diamondbacks LF Doug DeVore turned Albert Pujols' fly ball out into
a double play in the first when he threw out Womack at plate. ...
Edgar Renteria is in a 2-for-33 slump. ... The Diamondbacks ended a
nine-game road losing streak.
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