NL Central champs keep champagne corked

CHICAGO (AP) -- There was disappointment, frustration. Beyond
that, there was patience in the St. Louis Cardinals' clubhouse
because the players realize the celebration is coming.

One day after the Cardinals clinched their fourth NL Central
title in six years, the champagne remained corked again after
Friday's 5-3 loss to the Chicago Cubs.

While the Cardinals (94-55) would win the division on a
tiebreaker over second-place Houston if both teams finish with 94
wins, St. Louis refuses to celebrate until it is assured of more
wins that the Astros.

"Eventually, it's going to happen," third baseman Abraham
Nunez said.

The Astros beat Milwaukee 2-1 Friday night. The Cardinals hope
their celebration comes Saturday when they face the Cubs' Greg

"Hopefully, they don't have me come over and clean it up,"
Cubs manager Dusty Baker said.

The Cubs kept the festivities on hold, thanks to Jeromy Burnitz
and Derrek Lee.

Burnitz was 2-for-3 with three RBI, including the go-ahead
two-run single in the fifth, and Lee hit his 44th homer, a solo
shot in the first inning.

The Cardinals' Jim Edmonds hit his 28th home run in the top of
the first.

Glendon Rusch (7-8) allowed three runs and seven hits in 6 2-3
innings and left with a runner on first. Michael Wuertz allowed a
single to Albert Pujols but struck out Nunez.

Ryan Dempster pitched the ninth for his 28th save in 30

Matt Morris (14-9) lost his fourth straight start and fell to
0-4 against the Cubs, allowing four runs and seven hits in six

With the Cardinals leading 3-2, Rusch and Murton started the
fifth with singles, and Neifi Perez laid down a sacrifice bunt. The
Cardinals intentionally walked Lee, the majors' leading hitter, to
load the bases and Burnitz singled to right for a 4-3 lead.

Lee was thrown out at third, and Nomar Garciaparra grounded into
an inning-ending fielder's choice. But Murton's single bothered

"Glendon Rusch is a pretty good hitter for a pitcher, took a
good at-bat and bounced one over my head," he said. "Murton's
at-bat really ticked me off. I'd like to take that back. Ahead in
the count, I threw him a curveball. I had a couple other pitches I
should have thrown. ... All of a sudden, it's first and second."

Burnitz added an RBI single with two outs in the seventh,
putting runners on first and second, but Cardinals catcher Yadier
Molina picked him off.

The Cardinals have the best record in baseball, were the first
to clinch a playoff spot this season and are eyeing a return to the
World Series after being swept last year by Boston.

Six more victories would give St. Louis 100 in consecutive
seasons for the second time in franchise history and first since a
run of three straight from 1942-44.

The Cardinals have done this despite seeing their everyday
lineup get wrecked by injuries. David Eckstein, Pujols and Edmonds
are the only opening-day position players to stay healthy.

Third baseman Scott Rolen tore a capsule in his left shoulder in
a collision with the Los Angeles Dodgers' Hee-Seop Choi in May and
underwent season-ending surgery late last month. Outfielders Reggie
Sanders and Larry Walker missed significant chunks of the season.
Walker missed 26 games while on the disabled list with a herniated
disc that required three cortisone shots around the spine. Sanders,
who returned this week after missing 54 games with a fractured
right fibula, left the game in the fifth and was 0-for-3.

Game notes
Cubs LF Jerry Hairston was ejected after the bottom of the
third for arguing a strike call with first base umpire Larry
Vanover. Hairston, who tried to pull back after squaring to bunt,
argued with Vanover between innings and was ejected by crew chief
Randy Marsh. ... Cubs C Michael Barrett, who missed Thursday's game
after being hit in the head by a pitch from Cincinnati's Matt
Belisle on Wednesday night, was out of the lineup again on Friday.
A CT scan on Thursday showed no damage. But Baker said he went for
more tests on Friday. "They're not worried about him getting hit
with a thrown ball," Baker said. "They're more worried about him
getting hit with a foul tip, which catchers tend to get quite a
bit, so they didn't want to take a chance." ... The Cardinals'
Sanders and 2B Mark Grudzielanek, who returned this week from
injuries, were back in the lineup Friday after being held out of
Thursday's game against the Cubs due to cool, rainy weather.
Grudzielanek returned Wednesday after missing seven with a sore