ST. LOUIS (AP) — The Cardinals closed in on the NL's second wild-card berth while the Washington Nationals failed to make progress toward the NL East title.
Carlos Beltran homered from both sides of the plate for the ninth time in his career and drove in five runs, leading St. Louis over the Nationals 10-4 Sunday.
"We're one step closer, but there's still a long way to go," said Mike Matheny, who took over as manager from Tony La Russa after the Cardinals won last year's World Series. "We've got to keep playing and playing well. The guys came out pushing today against a very good team."
St. Louis (86-73) took a 7-0 lead by the third inning and reduced its magic number for clinching to two, pending the game later Sunday between the Los Angeles Dodgers (83-75) and Colorado.
Washington (96-63), already assured of the capital's first postseason baseball since 1933, saw its magic number for clinching the NL East remain at one over second-place Atlanta (93-66).
"We've had rough outings before," manager Davey Johnson said. "We've bounced back. It's better to clinch it at home anyway."
Beltran hit a pair of two-run homers, connecting right-handed off Ross Detwiler (10-8) in the second and left-handed against Chien-Ming Wang in the fourth. Beltran has four multihomer games this season and 34 in his career. He improved to 32 homers with 97 RBIs in his first season with St. Louis.
"Sometimes it happens where you feel from both sides, but most of the time you feel good from one side," Beltran said. "But it's always good to have a day like today where you have a good at-bat on the left and the right side."
Beltran entered in a 1-for-14 slide that had dropped his batting average to .265.
"As ballplayers, you're going to go through good stretches and bad stretches," Beltran said. "I try not to focus on that. I try to focus on the work that I do, come to the ballpark and prepare myself."
Matheny knows Beltran has been working hard.
"It's great to see for him," Matheny said. "The guy cares so much and it sometimes isn't translated in such a workmanlike attitude. It's really been bother him that he hasn't been able to step up. Days like today remind us of good he is."