Cardinals win, prepare for trip to Arizona

ST. LOUIS (AP) -- The St. Louis Cardinals' 97th win looked a lot
like many of the others -- strong pitching by a veteran starter,
good work from the bullpen, and a clutch hit by Edgar Renteria.

Renteria's one-out double in the eighth inning Sunday drove in
the first run of a game the Cardinals won 4-0.

"If we all voted in this clubhouse, he'd get a lot of votes for
our MVP,'' manager Tony La Russa said.

Renteria led NL shortstops with 82 RBI (he also had one as a
pinch-hitter) and batted .372 with runners in scoring position.
Overall, he hit .305.

Despite the victory, the Cardinals did not get home-field
advantage for the first round of the playoffs. They will take on
Arizona, starting Tuesday night at Phoenix.

The Diamondbacks beat Colorado 11-8 to get the home field. If
they had lost, Arizona and St. Louis would've finished with the
same record -- and the Cardinals would have held the tiebreaker.

St. Louis received a scare when starter Andy Benes was forced to
leave. It originally was announced that Benes had discomfort in his
arthritic right knee. But Benes said he felt a twinge in his back
during the third inning, and another as he was batting in the
fifth. He said he would be fine for the playoffs, though manager
Tony La Russa hasn't decided if Benes will get a start.

Benes pitched five shutout innings, fanning Ryan Christenson to
end the fifth for his 2,000th career strikeout. Benes received a
long standing ovation as the milestone was acknowledged on the
scoreboard when he led off the bottom of the fifth.

But on a 1-0 count, Benes took what appeared to be an awkward
swing. La Russa and a trainer came out and, after a long
discussion, Benes walked to the dugout.

The troublesome knee had Benes briefly flirting with retirement
early this season. In May, he was winless with a 10.80 ERA when it
appeared he would call it a career.

Days later, he decided to give it another chance and went on the
disabled list.

Since his return on July 16, Benes has been among the National
League's best pitchers, going 5-2 with a 1.86 ERA. His overall ERA
dropped to 2.78. He didn't give up a run in his last 17 innings.

Since his midseason return, Benes has developed an improved
slider and learned a split-fingered fastball from Chuck Finley, who
came to St. Louis in a July 20 deal with Cleveland.

"Before, if I got behind on the count they could sit on one
pitch,'' Benes said. "Now, they have to watch for the splitter,
the slider or the fastball.''

La Russa has said that Matt Morris will pitch Game 1 against
Arizona, with Finley pitching Game 2. With Woody Williams mending
from a ribcage injury, La Russa said Williams will pitch Game 3 if
he's able.

"If he's not there, give the ball to Andy,'' La Russa said.

After Benes left, relievers Dave Veres, Mike Crudale and Rick
White shut out Milwaukee on one hit. Crudale (3-0) pitched the
eighth and got the win.

Wayne Franklin shut out the Cardinals on one hit and six walks
through seven innings. His no-hit bid ended with Scott Rolen's
sixth-inning leadoff single.

"You have to give our guy credit,'' Brewers manager Jerry
Royster said. "To throw a no-hitter when they needed to win to get
home-field advantage says a lot about Franklin.''

But reliever Luis Vizcaino (5-3) gave up a one-out double to
Rolen and an intentional walk to Albert Pujols before Renteria
lined a two-run double.

"I hope they do that every time,'' said Pujols, whose 127 RBI
were second in the league to Lance Berkman's 128. "That's the
wrong guy to pitch to in that situation.''

The Cardinals added two runs later in the inning on Jim Edmonds'
pinch-hit single and Mike Matheny's sacrifice fly.

Milwaukee finished 56-106, easily the worst record in the
34-year history of the franchise.

Jose Hernandez did not play again and came up one short of the
season strikeout record of 189, set by Bobby Bonds in 1970.
Hernandez played in just three of the Brewer's final 11 games and
did not play in the four-game series in St. Louis.

Game notes
Renteria's two RBI gave him 82 as a shortstop, tying a
Cardinals shortstop record set by Doc Lavan in 1921. ... Richie
Sexson needed one home run to reach 30 for the fourth straight
year, but did not play. ... J.D. Drew, who did not play Sunday, has
struck out 104 times in 424 at-bats, the highest percentage on the
Cardinals. ... The Brewers were 9-72 in games in which they scored
three runs or fewer.