Chris Carpenter and the St. Louis Cardinals completed one of baseball’s greatest comebacks, clinching the NL wild card last night with an 8-0 win in 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 Aug. 26. The Cardinals won 23 of their last 31 games. The Cardinals will open the postseason Saturday at NL East champion Philadelphia.
Carpenter (11-9) struck out 11 and allowed two hits in his 15th career complete-game shutout as St. Louis kept up its improbable September charge.
“We had nothing to lose,’’ Carpenter said. “People were telling us we were done. We decided to go out and play and not embarrass ourselves and do what we can. We played ourselves back into it.’’
Phillies 4, Braves 3 - With the season on the line, host Atlanta couldn’t get the final three outs.
Now, the Braves have the whole winter to ponder an unprecedented collapse.
Braves closer Craig Kimbrel surrendered the tying run in the ninth, and Hunter Pence came through with a two-out, run-scoring single in the 13th to give Philadelphia a victory that ended Atlanta’s season without a trip to the playoffs that looked like a certainty just a few weeks ago.
The Braves were 10 1/2 games ahead of St. Louis before play on Aug. 26. They were still up by 8 1/2 games on the morning of Sept. 6.
The Braves lost five straight to end the regular season and went 9-18 in the final month.
“It was tough to be so close and then have the feeling like it was falling out of your hands,’’ Kimbrel said. “And that’s the feeling I have now.’’
Rangers 3, Angels 1 - Mike Napoli broke a tie in the ninth with his fourth homer in two games, and visiting Texas clinched home-field advantage in the AL Division Series.
Napoli, the longtime Angels catcher, also homered in the second inning as the Rangers set a franchise record with their 96th victory - including six straight heading into the postseason.
With 14 wins in their final 16 games, the Rangers (96-66) held off Detroit (95-67) for the right to host the Tampa Bay Rays at Rangers Ballpark tomorrow.
Mets 3, Reds 0 - Jose Reyes became the first New York player to win the NL batting title, holding off Ryan Braun on the final day of the season with a hit in his one at-bat at Citi Field.
Reyes bunted for a single against Cincinnati in the first inning and was immediately lifted for a pinch runner, leaving him with an average of .337. Braun went 0 for 4 in Milwaukee’s game against Pittsburgh to finish at .332. He needed to go 3 for 4 to pass Reyes.
A free agent after the World Series ends, Reyes was playing possibly his final game in New York. The move was booed when he left the game.
Brewers 7, Pirates 3 - Zack Greinke capped a perfect season (11-0) at home to help host Milwaukee clinch home-field advantage in the division series.
If the NL Central champs had finished tied with West winner Arizona, the Brewers would have started the playoffs on the road. Now the Brewers will open an NL Division Series against Arizona at Miller Park Saturday.
In other games - Washington ace Stephen Strasburg allowed one hit and struck out 10 in six scoreless innings to earn his first win since July 2010 as the Nationals dropped the Florida Marlins, 3-1, in Miami . . . Kevin Kouzmanoff had three hits and drove in two runs and the Colorado Rockies won, 6-3, in San Francisco, making the Giants the first World Series champion not to make the playoffs since St. Louis in 2007 . . . Miguel Cabrera singled and doubled, wrapping up the American League batting title, and Jhonny Peralta hit a tiebreaking homer in the eighth inning to help the Tigers beat the Cleveland Indians, 5-4, in Detroit . . . Matt Kemp hit a two-run homer to become the first Dodgers player in 70 years to lead the NL in home runs and RBIs, and Los Angeles held off a late rally to beat the playoff-bound Diamondbacks in Phoenix . . . Brandon Morrow became the fourth pitcher in Toronto history to record 200 strikeouts in a season and a ninth-inning rally propelled the Blue Jays over the White Sox, 3-2, in Chicago . . . Trevor Plouffe’s RBI single with two outs in the ninth inning gave Carl Pavano and the Twins a 1-0 victory over the Kansas City Royals in Minneapolis, helping Minnesota stave off a 100-loss season . . . Will Venable hit his first career grand slam and Nick Hundley hit a three-run shot to lift the Padres to a 9-2 victory over the Chicago Cubs in San Diego . . . Oakland lefthander Gio Gonzalez allowed just two hits in eight innings to help the Athletics beat the Mariners, 2-0, in Seattle.