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NL wild card race: Cardinals complete 10 1/2-game comeback

St. Louis finishes 23-8, good enough for NL wild card

St. Louis' Ryan Theriot, right, and Albert Pujols celebrate after winning 23 of their last 31 games to barely sneak into the playoffs. The Cardinals will face the Phillies in the first round of the playoffs.

HOUSTON - Tony La Russa clicked photos with his cell phone as the St. Louis Cardinals danced, yelled and doused each other with beer and champagne in a celebration none of them envisioned less than a month ago.

Chris Carpenter and the Cardinals completed one of baseball's greatest comebacks Wednesday night, clinching the NL wild card with an 8-0 win over Houston and a later loss by Atlanta.

The Cardinals got their playoff spot when the Braves fell to Philadelphia 4-3 in 13 innings.

St. Louis trailed Atlanta by 10 1/2 games on Aug. 25, then won 23 of the last 31 to finish its improbable charge. The Braves fueled the Cardinals' surge by losing 18 of their last 27.

"We came from so far back," La Russa said. "It's nice to be part of history because the club deserved it. We were great for four months, and we had a little bad period. We really came charging back. Adversity was something that we embraced."

The Cardinals will open the postseason on Saturday at NL East champion Philadelphia. In the other NL playoff matchup, Arizona visits Milwaukee.

"We're just glad we have a chance to play in October," Cardinals first baseman Albert Pujols said.

St. Louis made quick work of the punchless Astros, then rushed back into the clubhouse to watch the end of the Atlanta game.

With the Braves two outs from defeat, a clubhouse attendant wheeled in a dolly stocked with cardboard boxes of beer.

And when Freddie Freeman rolled into a season-ending double play, the party began.

"This is tough," Braves catcher Brian McCann said. "This is one of the worst feelings I've ever had coming off a baseball field."

The Braves lost five straight to end the regular season and went 9-18 in the final month.

NL Division series

• What: Cardinals at Phillies, Game 1

• When: Saturday; time TBA


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