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Cardinals clinch NL Central, beat Cubs 7-0

 

ST. LOUIS (AP) -- The St. Louis Cardinals clinched their first NL Central title in four years, beating the Chicago Cubs 7-0 Friday night behind the strong pitching of Lance Lynn and home runs by David Freese and Matt Holliday.

St. Louis (95-65) has won six of seven and is tied with Atlanta for the best record in the NL. They are assured of home-field advantage when the NL division series starts Thursday.

Adam Wainwright (18-9) was moved up to start Saturday, putting the St. Louis ace on track to start his team's postseason opener against Cincinnati, Pittsburgh or the Los Angeles Dodgers.

(backslash)A near-sellout crowd of 44,030 was on its feet, roaring and clapping in unison the final half-inning, then snapping pictures and applauding while the team celebrated near the mound. After the final out, Cardinals players put on T-shirts that read: "We Own The Central."

The Cubs have lost 12 of 16 and watched an opponent clinch for the third time within a week. The Braves wrapped up the NL East on Sunday at Wrigley Field and the Pirates secured a playoff spot in Chicago the following day.

Lynn (15-10) struck out six in a row, starting with Dioner Navarro to end the first. He fanned seven his first time through the order and allowed just four hits over six innings with nine strikeouts and no walks. Lynn has won consecutive starts after a skid in which he was 0-5 with a 5.44 ERA in eight outings.

Leadoff man Starlin Castro had three hits, including a third-inning single that stopped Lynn strikeout streak,

Yadier Molina had two hits and three RBIs to set a single-season best with 78, Jon Jay had two hits and an RBI and leadoff man Matt Carpenter had a single that left him one hit shy of 200.

Travis Wood (9-12) gave up three runs and four hits, leaving after just one inning - when he reached 200 in a season for the first time.

Six batters reached safely with two out: Molina had a two-run double off the left-field wall and Jay extended his hitting streak to 12 with an RBI single.

Holliday hit his 250th career homer and 21st this season leading off the sixth off Blake Parker.

NOTES: Both benches were warned in the sixth after Lynn's high fastball struck Navarro on an arm. ... Lynn's strikeout run was the Cardinals' longest since 2009, when John Smoltz fanned seven Padres in a row in his St. Louis debut. ... Edwin Jackson (8-17, 4.74) is the Cubs starter Saturday. ... Cardinals cleanup man Allen Craig (left mid-foot sprain) was ruled out for the NL division series. ... Wood and Jeff Samardzija are among three NL duos with 200 innings apiece and are the Cubs' first since Ryan Dempster and Ted Lilly in 2008. ... Molina is batting .437 against the Cubs (21 for 48) with a team-high 13 RBIs. ... The Cubs are 12-74 when allowing four runs or more.

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