Goldschmidt, Cards clinch playoff spot, rally past Cubs 3-2

Paul Goldschmidt and the St. Louis Cardinals celebrated the franchise’s first postseason berth in four years with a champagne toast in the visitor’s clubhouse.

It was another sweet finish.

Goldschmidt hit a tiebreaking double in the ninth inning and the Cardinals clinched a playoff spot by rallying past the Chicago Cubs 3-2 on Sunday for their first four-game sweep at Wrigley Field in almost a century.

“Just relentless on our guys’ part,” manager Mike Shildt said. “That’s the way we play baseball. That’s the way we compete.”

NL Central-leading St. Louis qualified for October for the first time it won the division in 2015. It also stayed three games ahead of Milwaukee.

It was the fifth consecutive win for the Cardinals, who came back for a 9-8 victory Saturday on consecutive homers by Yadier Molina and Paul DeJong against Craig Kimbrel in the ninth.

This time, Chicago manager Joe Maddon sent a dominant Yu Darvish (6-8) back to the mound to go for his first complete game since 2014. But the result was the same in the Cubs’ fifth consecutive one-run loss and sixth straight overall.

“If you just play back the tape it’s almost unbelievable that it turned out this way,” Maddon said.

Pinch hitter José Martínez sparked the winning rally with a leadoff triple that glanced off the glove of leaping center fielder Albert Almora Jr.

“It was hit hard and it went over my head and I missed it,” Almora said. “That’s it.”

Dexter Fowler followed with a sacrifice fly, tying it at 2. After rookie Tommy Edman singled and stole second, Goldschmidt hit a grounder down the third-base line to put the Cardinals in front for good in the Cubs’ rainy home finale.

“I swung and missed a couple times at some pitches in the middle,” Goldschmidt said. “Luckily, I was able to hit that last one down the line.”

Miles Mikolas pitched 7 2/3 innings of two-run ball and Tyler Webb (2-1) got the last out of the eighth for the win. Andrew Miller worked the ninth for his sixth save.

Nicholas Castellanos hit his career-high 27th homer for Chicago (82-74), which dropped four games back of the Brewers for the second NL wild card. The Cubs finished with a 51-30 home record after losing their losing their last six games at Wrigley.

It was the first four-game series sweep for St. Louis (89-67) at Chicago’s famed ballpark since May 1921.

“It kind of seems that we’ve got the magic going,” Edman said. “At any point, we know we’re not out of it.”

Castellanos also scored the first run of the game when he scampered home on Molina’s passed ball in the first. But DeJong tied it with his 29th homer , a massive shot to Waveland Avenue in the third.

It was still tied when Castellanos led off the sixth with a drive to center for his 16th homer in 49 games since he was acquired in a July 31 trade with Detroit.

The Cubs were without Kris Bryant for most of the day after the slugger sprained his right ankle trying to beat out a double play in the third. He is scheduled for an MRI on Monday after X-rays taken at the ballpark were negative.

ONE SWEET TUNE

Gary Pressy threw out a ceremonial first pitch before his 2,687th and final game as the organist at Wrigley. He also led the crowd in the singing of “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” during the seventh-inning stretch.

Pressy is retiring after beginning his career at Wrigley in 1986.

ABOUT THE NUMBERS

The announced attendance was 38,606, bringing the season total at Wrigley to 3,094,865. The Cubs’ attendance last year was 3,181,089, but that included a crowd of 38,450 for the Cubs’ NL Central tiebreaker loss to the Brewers.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Cardinals: An MRI on Kolten Wong’s ailing left hamstring showed a Grade 2 strain. The infielder is hoping to return during the Cardinals’ last series of the season against Chicago in St. Louis. “I’m hoping to give this enough time where it definitely won’t hinder me going on,” he said.

Cubs: SS Javier Báez could return to the field Tuesday at Pittsburgh for the first time since he broke his left thumb. He struck out as a pinch hitter Saturday in his first plate appearance since the injury. “The biggest thing is just closing his glove on defense,” Maddon said. “So if he’s able to do that and he’s making great progress you may see him.”

UP NEXT

Cardinals: RHP Adam Wainwright (13-9, 3.83 ERA) starts the opener of a three-game series at Arizona on Monday night. Wainwright is 4-0 in September, allowing one earned run in 27 innings. LHP Alex Young (7-4, 3.27 ERA) pitches for the Diamondbacks.

Cubs: Following an off day, Kyle Hendricks (11-9, 3.37 ERA) starts the opener of a three-game set at Pittsburgh. RHP Mitch Keller (1-5, 7.74 ERA) pitches for the Pirates on Tuesday night.

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Jay Cohen can be reached at https://twitter.com/jcohenap

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