It came down to the final day of the regular season, but the Cardinals finally overcame the Braves and are headed to the playoffs.
Behind Chris Carpenter's second shutout of the season, St. Louis blanked the Houston Astros, 8-0, at Minute Maid Park. The Cardinals then waited in the visitor's clubhouse and watched on television as the Philadelphia Phillies topped Atlanta, 4-3, in 13 innings.
That loss by the Braves gave the Cardinals the National League wild card spot and a trip to Philadelphia to face the NL East-champion Phillies on Saturday in Game 1 of their Division Series.
St. Louis (90-72) had erased a 10 1/2-game deficit for the NL wild card and came into Wednesday's contest even with the Braves.
Carpenter (11-9) gave up just two hits and a walk with a season-high 11 strikeouts.
"You just concern yourself with playing and next thing you know you turn around and you're right up there," said Carpenter about St. Louis' postseason push. "We have guys in this clubhouse that know what needs to be done and we've all done it here."
Brett Myers (7-14) was pounded for seven runs -- six earned -- on 10 hits with a walk and three strikeouts over five innings for the Astros (56-106), who completed their worst season ever.
The Cardinals did most of their damage in the first inning as the first five batters had hits with singles from Albert Pujols and Lance Berkman each scoring a run while Freese doubled home Pujols. After a groundout, Schumaker brought home Berkman with an infield hit and Nick Punto followed with a single to left for a 5-0 lead.
Carpenter helped his cause in the third with an RBI single for a 6-0 lead.
Schumaker brought home Freese with a groundout in the fifth.
Carpenter set down the first 10 batters he faced before a single from Jose Altuve with one out in the fourth.
Houston's only threat in the game came in the sixth with a single from J.B. Shuck and a walk from Altuve with two outs. J.D. Martinez then grounded out to end the frame.
"That's not quite the way we drew it up, with them jumping out to that lead right away," Astros manager Brad Mills said. "Carpenter was on his game and some balls found holes and they jumped out to that big lead."
Allen Craig homered in the ninth off Lance Pendleton.
Pujols finished with a .299 average and 99 RBI. It was the first time in his 11-year career that he finished...St. Louis won 10 of the 15 games against the Astros this season...The Cardinals went 45-36 on the road this season...Houston went just 31-50 at home this season...Carpenter won his final three decisions of the season and improved to 8-5 in 19 games against the Astros...Myers had won his previous four starts. He dropped to 6-6 in 20 games against the Cards.