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The St. Louis Cardinals' improbable run toward the National League Wildcard took another big step backward Friday night as the Chicago Cubs scored four runs in the final two innings to win 5-1 at Busch Stadium.
The Cards' loss, coupled with Atlanta's 7-4 win over Washington, pushed the Cardinals three games behind Atlanta in the wildcard race with five to play. It also means Milwaukee, with its 4-1 win over Florida, has clinched its first National League Central Division crown and its first division championship since 1982 (when the Brewers played in the American League).
The Redbirds jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the 2nd when starting pitcher Chris Carpenter laid down a bunt on a suicide squeeze play, scoring Skip Schumaker from third. It was the first time St. Louis squeezed home a runner at Busch Stadium since the final weekend of the 2010 season.
The Cubs tied the game 1-1 in the top of the 6th on Carlos Pena's RBI double. It was the only run Carpenter gave up. The Cards' starter also allowed five hits in seven innings, striking out five while allowing two walks.
In the 8th, Chicago's Darwin Barney started the inning with a triple off reliever Kyle McClellan (12-7). After Bryan LaHair grounded out to Albert Pujols, Carlos Pena was walked intentionally, setting the stage for the shot that silenced the crowd of just over 40,000. Alfonso Soriano belted a three run homer over the left field wall, giving his team a 4-1 lead.
The Cubs added another run in the 9th off reliever Mitchell Boggs. Starlin Castro singled in Tony Campana, making the score 5-1.
Jeff Samardzija (8-4) pitched one scoreless inning in relief of Cubs' starter Ryan Dempster to earn the win.
The Cardinals continue their final home series of 2011 Saturday afternoon, with first pitch at 12:10 against the Cubs. Kyle Lohse (14-8) will pitch for St. Louis against Chicago's Rodrigo Lopez (6-6).
The Cardinals grounded into three double plays Friday night, giving them 165 for the year. The next twin killing the Cards hit into will tie the National League record of 166, set by the 1958 Cardinals.
Friday's announced attendance of 40,335 put the Cardinals over three million fans for the eighth consecutive season and the 15th time in club history.
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