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Cardinals crush Cubs to claim NL Central title

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Los Angeles (AFP)

Jack Flaherty threw seven solid innings as the St. Louis Cardinals claimed the National League Central title with a dominating 9-0 Major League Baseball victory Sunday over the struggling Chicago Cubs.

Flaherty improved to 11-8 on the season and needed just 69 pitches to record his 21 outs. He struck out six batters and allowed just two hits and one walk.

The Cardinals will face the Atlanta Braves in the best-of-five NL division playoff series that begins Thursday.

The second-place Milwaukee Brewers will face the Washington Nationals in the wild-card game Tuesday, with the winner to meet the Los Angeles Dodgers in another NL division series matchup.

"We underperformed the first half of the season and everybody knew that," said Cards pitcher Adam Wainwright. "I just said be patient, it's going to come because we had good players.

"This year we got all the pieces. We just got to go out and perform."

The third-place Cubs ended a disappointing season with a one-sided loss for manager Joe Maddon, whose was let go by the team earlier Sunday after five seasons at the helm.

Cardinals manager Mike Shildt hoped to save Flaherty for the first game of the playoffs, but elected to start him Sunday with the division title up in the air.

After finishing the second half of the season with an 0.91 ERA, Flaherty is expected to start game two against the Braves.

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