Daily Sports: St. Louis Clinches The Central

The six automatic spots in the Division Series are now complete. The St. Louis Cardinals clinched the last remaining division title with a 7-0 win over the Chicago Cubs on Friday night in front of the home fans. Yadier Molina went 2-for-4 with three RBIs, while both David Freese and Matt Holliday homered. It was the first division title for the Cardinals since 2009 and just the second since their run from 2004-06.

Even with all the great success this organization has had, including the 2011 World Series title, that Central Division crown has been hard to come by and it was well-earned this season, holding off stiff challenges from the Pittsburgh Pirates and Cincinnati Reds, who will meet in Tuesday’s wild-card game.

While St. Louis celebrated, the last remaining items on the MLB playoff docketthe two wild-card slots in the American League got tighter. Tampa Bay lost, while both Cleveland and Texas won. The Rays and Indians are now tied with the Rangers just a game back. Here’s how Friday night played out…

Toronto 6 Tampa Bay 3: The problems of Jeremy Hellickson continue, as Toronto got him for four runs in the fourth inning and two more in the fifth.

Cleveland 12 Minnesota 6: The Indians attacked early and often, with seven runs in the first two innings and overcame a subpar outing from Cory Kluber. Jason Kipnis led the way on offense with a three-hit night.

Texas 5 LA Angels 3: It was a vintage showing for the Texas bullpen. After Alexi Ogando worked reasonably effectively into the sixth, four different Ranger relievers pitched 3 2/3 innings of scoreless ball and the offense pushed over two in the seventh to break a 3-3 tie.

Texas remains the team with all the pressure on them. If they lose, and both teams in front of them win, it’s all over.

Fox has decided to carry the Pirates-Reds game as its main game of Saturday, with a 1 PM ET start. All that’s at stake is homefield for Tuesday’s playoff game, and a Pittsburgh win means the wild-card battle would be at PNC Park.

MLB Network’s programming decision is even worse–Phillies-Braves and Yankees-Astros are the fare served at 7 PM ET. I guess whether Mariano Rivera will play centerfield and whether Brian McCann will again choose to be the chief enforcer of baseball ethics are more interesting than games with survival at stake.

TheSportsNotebook’s college football coverage has looked at the best games of the day and a lot more on the undercard. The good TV viewing starts in the mid-afternoon with LSU-Georgia (CBS) and Notre Dame-Oklahoma (NBC) each kicking off at 3:30 PM ET. The daily sports feast rolls into prime-time with ESPN having Ole-Miss Alabama at 6:30 PM ET and ABC showing Wisconsin-Ohio State at 8 PM ET.