News and notes from around the Central:
- I'm going to paraphrase something @KenTremendous said on Twitter last night after the Red Sox gagged their way out of the post-season: for the Cardinals to make the playoffs, about 1000 different things needed to go right for the Cards and wrong for the Braves in September. And that's exactly what happened, as the Cardinals took full advantage of another Atlanta loss with an 8-0 thumpin' of the Astros to claim the NL Wild Card.
- Maybe there was something in the water in New York yesterday: on a day when Jose Reyes claimed the NL batting title by bunting for a hit in the first inning and then taking himself out of the game, Reds second baseman Brandon Phillips sat out the team's final game (purportedly because of a strained quad), preserving his .300 batting average for the season.
- From the sounds of it, Pittsburgh catcher Ryan Doumit has come to terms with the fact that he won't be a Pirate next season: Doumit's been in the Pirates' organization for 13 years, but he acknowledged to reporters before the season's final game that "the probability of me being back is probably slim."
- It hasn't been a season to remember on the North Side of Chicago, as the $130-million Cubs could only muster 71 wins, but shortstop Starlin Castro's season was nothing to sneeze at: the 21-year-old Castro led the NL with 207 hits, making him the youngest player in MLB history to lead the NL in hits, and he doubled in the eighth inning of yesterday's contest against San Diego to run his streak of reaching base safely to 40 games.
- Astros outfielder Carlos Lee sounded like a man who's ready to hang up his spurs when his current contract expires in 2012: Lee told reporters that he's eager to spend more time with his family and that "[i]f I had to really decide now, I'd stay home."
Carlos Gomez's three-run homer backed a strong outing on short rest for Zack Greinke as Milwaukee waltzed to home-field advantage in the NLDS with a 7-3 victory over Pittsburgh. Our recap is here.
- St. Louis secured its spot in the post-season with an 8-0 annihilation of Houston at Minute Maid Park. Chris Carpenter was at his best (though he probably didn't need to be; these are the Astros, after all) when his team needed it most, hurling a complete-game two-hitter in 106 pitches while striking out 11. Meanwhile, the Cardinal offense put this one out of reach early, plating five runs in the first inning against Brett Myers -- Al Pujols RBI single, Lance Berkman RBI single, David Freese RBI double, Skip Schumaker RBI single, and Nick Punto RBI single -- to turn the game into a rout right at the outset.
- The Reds had their bags packed and ready before they ever got to Citi Field, as Cincinnati went meekly into the offseason, getting blanked, 3-0, at New York. Miguel Batista threw a complete-game shutout on 123 pitches, holding the punchless Reds offense to two hits (a double by Chris Heisey and a single by Edgar Renteria) and two walks while fanning five. The Mets offense wasn't great by any means, either, but New York scored a run in the fourth on Nick Evans' single and two in the sixth on Mike Baxter's first homer of the year to make a loser out of Edinson Volquez, who finished 5-7 with a 5.71 ERA in his abbreviated 2011 season.
- The Cubs also seemed to be in a hurry to start their (respective) vacations, as Chicago got throttled by the Padres, 9-2, at Petco Park. The Padres used a pair of home runs to power their offense: Nick Hundley clubbed a three-run shot in the third to give the Pads a 4-0 lead, and Will Venable crushed a grand slam in the sixth inning to put San Diego up seven. Ryan Dempster, who might've been making his last start for the Cubs, was responsible for all that damage, and his final line was downright nasty: 5.2 innings pitched, eight hits, four walks, and nine earned runs. For the year, Dempster rebounded from his nightmarish April to finish 10-14 with a 4.80 ERA.
Your final NL Central standings for 2011: