The only folks who expected such a finish were those five Cincinnati Reds fans who brought brooms.
They waved their brooms in the outfield stands last night after Ken Griffey hit his 491st homer and Austin Kearns hit a three-run shot in the eighth for a 7-5 victory and a four-game sweep of the Houston Astros in Cincinnati.
Kearns's tiebreaking homer off Brad Lidge (0-3) pushed Cincinnati a half-game ahead of the Cubs for the NL Central lead.
A club that lost 93 games and traded away stars last season now has the league's best record (26-18), having swept a team counted among the NL's best.
"Those guys are as good as it gets," Kearns said. "Just to win the series would have been sweet. To sweep is great. I can't say enough."
Cincinnati has won six in a row -- its best spurt since 2002 -- and nine of 10 overall. The Astros hadn't been swept in a four-game series since June 24-27, 1999, when the Reds did it in the Astrodome. Houston has lost a season-high five in a row.
Griffey hit his second homer in two games, a solo shot that tied him with Fred McGriff for 21st on the career list. He also had a two-run double off Tim Redding that smacked off the left-field wall.
Sean Casey also homered for the second straight game and had a pair of hits, raising the NL's top batting average to .386. John Riedling (3-0) got the win despite giving up Lance Berkman's tying, two-run homer in the seventh. Danny Graves got three outs for his major league-leading 21st save in 25 chances.
Pinch hitter Jason Lane singled and scored on a passed ball to make it 7-5, but Graves retired Jeff Bagwell and Berkman with a runner at third to end it.
The Astros managed only eight singles off Jose Acevedo before Orlando Palmeiro led off the seventh with his second pinch-hit homer of the series, ending Acevedo's night.
Riedling, who hadn't given up an earned run in his last 15 appearances, walked Bagwell with two outs in the seventh and gave up Berkman's homer, his 10th.
Berkman also had an RBI single in the fifth that snapped the Reds' shutout streak at 13 innings.
Blue Jays 6, Angels 5 -- Chris Gomez scored the winning run in the 10th when nobody covered the plate during a rundown, lifting Toronto at home.
Gomez reached on a fielder's choice and Ben Weber (0-2) walked Eric Hinske before Simon Pond hit a sharp grounder to first baseman Casey Kotchman, who knocked the ball down with a dive.
Second baseman Adam Kennedy picked up the ball and threw to catcher Bengie Molina, who got Gomez in a rundown between third and home. Molina chased Gomez up the line before throwing to Alfredo Amezaga, who didn't have anybody to throw to at the plate. Pond was credited with an RBI single.
Vladimir Guerrero, Jose Guillen, and Jeff DaVanon hit consecutive homers in the third for the Angels, who still have the best record in the majors (29-16).
Braves 5, Expos 0 -- Andruw Jones homered twice to power visiting Atlanta and John Thomson (3-2) handled punchless Montreal, which has dropped five in a row.
Marlins 13, Diamondbacks 5 -- Light-hitting Ramon Castro had two hits and three RBIs, and Juan Pierre tied a career high with four RBIs, including a bases-loaded triple in the eighth for host Florida.