Cards catch playoff break, Rockies rock Braves


The St. Louis Cardinals caught a playoff break when Chipper Jones could not catch a grounder. No such lucky bounces for Randy Johnson, Terry Francona or Gene Lamont. The final day of the regular season also meant a farewell to Three Rivers Stadium. In their last game ever at the ballpark, the Pittsburgh Pirates lost to the Chicago Cubs 10-9 Sunday. “I’m probably one of the very few people who like this place,” Pirates catcher Jason Kendall said. Lamont went out with a loss in his final game as the Pirates manager — his dismissal is to be announced Monday. Francona was fired as Philadelphia’s manager early Sunday, and was in the dugout as the Phillies lost at Florida 7-5. “I’ve had better days,” Francona said. “We all knew it was coming. If you don’t win, they move on. It didn’t bowl me over, but it was an emotional day.” Johnson lost in his bid for a 20th victory. The Arizona ace was tagged for nine runs and seven hits in 3 1-3 innings as the Diamondbacks fell to San Francisco 11-4. “It’s very difficult to win 20,” Johnson said. “It was looking me in the face, but I think that in the two years that I’ve been here, this is probably the one game that I pressed a little bit out there.” The big winner of the day turned out to be the St. Louis Cardinals. They beat Cincinnati 6-2 and wound up clinching home-field advantage for their first-round playoff matchup against Atlanta. The Braves were one strike from earning the home field when Jones made an error. Colorado then rallied for seven runs with two outs in the ninth inning, highlighted by Todd Helton’s three-run homer off John Rocker, to beat Atlanta 10-5. “Well, we haven’t blown one in a long time,” Atlanta manager Bobby Cox said. “The best hitter in the game hit a homer. That happens when you make an error and walk a couple of guys.” Greg Maddux will start for the Braves against 20-game Darryl Kile in Game 1 Tuesday at Busch Stadium. On Wednesday, the New York Mets will open their best of-5 series at San Francisco. Cardinals 6, Reds 2 Will Clark and Craig Paquette each drove in three runs as St. Louis won at home. The Cardinals and Atlanta both finished at 95-67. St. Louis won the home field because it won the season series from the Braves, 4-3.

Rockies 10, Braves 5 Helton’s three-run homer keyed Colorado’s comeback at Turner Field. Helton led the majors in hitting _ he finished at .372414 while Boston’s Nomar Garciaparra was at .372401 _ and also was tops with 147 RBIs. He hit 42 home runs, eight behind Chicago’s Sammy Sosa for the Triple Crown. Mets 3, Expos 2, 13 innings Benny Agbayani scored in the 13th inning at Shea Stadium when Montreal third baseman Geoff Blum threw away a bunt. New York manager Bobby Valentine used 18 of his 19 position players in a tuneup for the playoffs. The Expos lost their season-high ninth straight. Marlins 7, Phillies 5 Preston Wilson drove in two runs to set a team record of 121 RBIs as Florida beat visiting Philadelphia. The Phillies lost 11 of their last 14 games and wound up last in the NL East at 65-97. Padres 4, Dodgers 0 Ryan Klesko homered and San Diego beat visiting Los Angeles to stop its seven-game losing streak. Trevor Hoffman closed for his 43rd save in 50 chances. Giants 11, Diamondbacks 4 Calvin Murray hit a grand slam in the fourth inning and San Francisco won at Arizona. Johnson (19-7) gave up eight earned runs. That increased his ERA from 2.38 to 2.64, and he lost that title to Los Angeles’ Kevin Brown (2.58). Cubs 10, Pirates 9 Shane Andrews hit a two-run double in the eighth inning and Chicago closed out Three Rivers Stadium by defeating Pittsburgh. The Pirates will move across a parking lot next year to PNC Park. Sister Sledge, whose “We Are Family” was adopted as the club’s theme song during the 1979 world championship run, sang the national anthem. Astros 6, Brewers 1 In the majors’ final regular-season game, Daryle Ward hit the 266th and last home run at Enron Field this season as Houston beat Milwaukee. Last year at the Astrodome, Houston and its opponents totaled a mere 118 home runs.