Cubs beat Cardinals 7-0 to drop magic number to 1


Adrian Beltre reached the 30-home run mark for the fifth time in his career with a blast that cleared the Crawford Boxes.

The Cardinals are 8-7 this season against the Cubs.

St. Louis Cardinals' Kolten Wong drops his helmet after grounding out to end the eighth inning of a baseball game against the Chicago Cubs Wednesday, Sept. 14, 2016, in St. Louis.

Jesse joined ESPN Chicago in September 2009 and covers the Chicago Cubs for ESPNChicago.com and ESPN Radio 1000.

With their 7-0 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals on Wednesday afternoon, the Cubs' reduced their magic number for clinching the National League Central Division title to one game.

When the Cubs clinch the NL Central, it will be the sixth division title in franchise history.

Chicago secured at least a wild card because the four-game series between the Cardinals and Giants makes it impossible for both to catch the Cubs in the standings.

"I'll tell you, if you were in that dugout at the beginning of the game, the guys were dead on their feet", Chicago manager Joe Maddon said. "(Lester) really played into all that".

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St. Louis remained a half-game behind the New York Mets for the second NL wild-card spot. It was the sixth consecutive start in which Lester has allowed zero or one run. One way for a great team to lose unexpectedly in the playoffs is to come up short with that one hit when it's needed most, that one hit they got plenty of times in Games 1 through 162, but for whatever reason escapes them in October. Lester has thrown himself into the National League Cy Young Award with a preposterous 1.02 ERA over his last 61 2/3 innings of work. He also helped his cause at the plate with an RBI single in the third.

I'd say Lester has to also be in the Cy Young conversation, along with Kyle Hendricks. "He elevated a changeup for me and I got it far enough out there to give us a run". Aledmys Diaz answered with a momentum-shifting, two-run homer into the left-field seats in the second inning.

Hammel has given up two or more home runs in seven starts this season, the most by a Cubs pitcher since 2011, when Ryan Dempster did it seven times.

"We want to do well here and I think trying to right the ship here we're putting a little too much pressure on us", Moss said.

Hector Rondon, who JD called "overqualified" for throwing a ninth inning with a seven-run lead, threw a 1-2-3 ninth to finish up the three-hit combined shutout, the Cubs' 14th of the season.

Martinez started off strong, striking out the side in the first and four of the first six batters he faced. Jason Hammel (14-9, 3.60 ERA) held a powerful lineup in check for stretches (nine strikeouts), but got burned with two pitches.

The Cardinals (76-69) endured their third straight losing homestand and fell to 33-41 at home, clinching their first losing season at Busch Stadium III since it opened in 2006.