ST. LOUIS (AP) — Yadier Molina returned in late August from a torn ligament in his right thumb, and the All-Star catcher has been a difference-maker for the St. Louis Cardinals as they try to reach the NL championship series for the fourth straight year.

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CINCINNATI (AP) — St. Louis Cardinals clinch NL Central as Pittsburgh loses to Cincinnati.

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The St. Louis Cardinals, before even playing an inning of baseball Sunday, became the 2014 National League Central champions.

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The final Sunday of the MLB regular season could have produced chaos, but as it turns out, things wrapped up quite neatly. The Detroit Tigers won to clinch the AL Central . The St. Louis Cardinals clinched the NL Central when the Pittsburgh Pirates lost. And the Oakland Athletics, after losing two straight potential clinchers, finally won to secure the second AL wild-card spot. So the MLB postseason is set. We don’t need any Game 163s . In the AL, the Tigers, Baltimore Orioles and Los Angeles Angels are division winners, while the A’s and Kansas City Royals are wild cards. In the NL, the Cards, Los Angeles Dodgers and Washington Nationals are division winners, while the Pirates and San Francisco Giants are wild cards.  As we look ahead at the schedule, there are many intriguing storylines coming in the next days, among them:  • The Royals, in the postseason for the first time since 1985 , trying to survive a one-game playoff with the A’s, who barely made the playoffs after a second-half collapse. • The Dodgers and Cardinals renewing their rivalry from last year’s NLCS . •  Whether the highly touted pitching of the Tigers can shut down the home-run hitting Orioles.

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(Reuters) – The St. Louis Cardinals and Detroit Tigers locked up division titles on Sunday, the last day of the regular season, while the Oakland Athletics earned a wild-card berth into the postseason. The Cardinals secured top spot in the National League Central when the second-placed Pittsburgh Pirates lost to the Cincinnati Reds. St. Louis will play the NL West champion Los Angeles Dodgers in a best-of-five Division Series that starts on Friday. …

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(Adds late games) Sept 28 (The Sports Xchange) – Highlights of Sunday’s Major League Baseball games. – - – Cardinals 1, Diamondbacks 0 St. Louis second baseman Kolten Wong drove in the only run of the game on a groundout in the sixth inning as the Cardinals celebrated their National League Central title with a victory over the Arizona Diamondbacks on the final day of the regular season. St. Louis (90-72) made the playoffs for the fourth consecutive season, their third in as many years under manager Mike Matheny. …

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Cincinnati (AFP) – The St. Louis Cardinals clinched the National League Central division on Sunday when rivals for the title Pittsburgh fell 4-1 at Cincinnati.

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PHOENIX (AP) — The St. Louis Cardinals never made it easy on themselves, laboring through injuries and inconsistency, unable to get into the NL Central race until around the All-Star break.

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PHOENIX (AP) — The Arizona Diamondbacks got to watch a team celebrate in their ballpark for the second straight season.

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The NFL has the New England Patriots. The NBA has the San Antonio Spurs. And MLB has the St. Louis Cardinals. They’re all organizations that somehow remain one step ahead of the competition, regardless of how much or how quickly the landscape changes, and that doesn’t look to be changing any time soon. On Sunday afternoon, the Cardinals clinched their second straight National League Central crown by way of the Cincinnati Reds defeating Pittsburgh 4-1. The Cardinals also attained victory on Sunday, 1-0 over Arizona, which gives them another 90-win season. The playoff appearance will be their 11th since 2000, which is second only to the New York Yankees.  The Cardinals were in chase mode throughout most of the season after Milwaukee got off to a fast start, but there was always that feeling that St. Louis was going to make a run eventually. Once they did, they never looked back, even with Pittsburgh nipping at their heels.  It was another case of St. Louis being St. Louis, in a baseball sense. They did a lot of things right, and very few wrong. Here’s a look at the five factors that played the biggest role in their triumph.

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