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    Jon Lester, league-leading Chicago Cubs blank St. Louis Cardinals to clinch MLB playoff berth

    Sep 16, 2016
    Jon Lester pitched eight dominant innings for the Cubs against the Cardinals. AP

    ST. LOUIS — Jon Lester pitched eight dominant innings and Anthony Rizzo hit a pair of home runs as the Chicago Cubs beat St. Louis 7-0 on Wednesday (Thursday, Manila time) to clinch a Major League playoff berth.

    Lester gave up three hits, and the Cardinals totaled only 11 while dropping two of three in the series.

    The Cubs improved their major league-best record to 93-52 and lowered their magic number to one for clinching their first NL Central title since 2008. They can wrap up the division crown Thursday night with a win at home over Milwaukee or a St. Louis loss in San Francisco.

    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.

    St. Louis remained a half-game behind the New York Mets and one game back of the Giants for the two NL wild cards. The Cardinals' bats have picked a bad time to go cold, with all five of their runs in this series coming from homers.

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    Cardinals first base Brandon Moss tipped his cap to Lester (17-4), who allowed four base runners, none of whom got past first.

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    "Today was one of those days were he had both (pitches) working and he wasn't missing over the middle and he was even throwing some curveballs and changeups to keep you off of everything," Moss said.

    In Boston, Mark Trumbo hit his major league-leading 42nd home run and Kevin Gausman outpitched Rick Porcello over eight innings as Baltimore pulled within a game of AL East-leading Boston with a 1-0 win.

    Baltimore took two of three in the series to pull a game ahead of slumping Toronto for the top AL wild card. The Blue Jays' slump continued with an 8-1 home loss to Tampa Bay, with Alex Cobb pitching 6 2/3 innings to win for the first time in almost two years.

    Miguel Cabrera's homer broke a seventh-inning tie as Detroit rallied for a crucial 9-6 victory over Minnesota. The Tigers, who trailed 5-2 in the fourth inning, pulled one game behind Toronto for the second AL wild card.

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    Seattle's Japanese starter Hisashi Iwakuma pitched into the seventh inning and earned his 16th win as the surging Mariners completed a three-game sweep at the Los Angeles Angels with a 2-1 win.

    The Mariners extended their longest winning streak of the season to eight games, moving within 1-1/2 games of Toronto for the second AL wild card.

    Iwakuma (16-11) won his second straight, allowing one run and five hits in 6 1/3 innings. He exited after Cliff Pennington bunted for a leadoff single and advanced on Juan Graterol's sacrifice.

    "He dialed it up. You could see the look on his face," Mariners manager Scott Servais said. "He's very good at slowing the game down. It's almost to the point where it drives you crazy, like, let's go! But that's what he does; he slows it down, he executes pitches."

    In other matches, reigning champions Kansas City fell five games out in the AL wild card race with an 8-0 home loss to Oakland, Houston beat visiting Texas 8-4, and Cleveland won 6-1 at the Chicago White Sox.

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    The LA Dodgers won 2-0 at the Yankees, Washington beat the visiting Mets 1-0, San Francisco stumbled again, swept by struggling San Diego through a 3-1 home loss, Miami won 7-5 at Atlanta, Philadelphia won 6-2 at home to Pittsburgh, Milwaukee won 7-0 at Cincinatti, and Arizona beat visiting Colorado 11-6.

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    Jon Lester pitched eight dominant innings for the Cubs against the Cardinals. AP
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