The St. Louis Cardinals will have to win the National League Central on their own.
Jeff Baker smacked a two-run homer with two outs in the ninth Thursday night to lift the Cubs to a 3-2 victory over the San Francisco Giants.
The Cardinals were idle Thursday, but their magic number to clinch the division was one. All they needed was for the Cubs to lose. Instead, Baker delivered the game-winner off a 2-2 pitch from Brian Wilson (5-6).
Manager Lou Piniella tried to find a silver lining to the season. At least the Cubs weren't going to watch the Cardinals party.
"They didn't get a chance to celebrate in front of us," Piniella said. "We got that opportunity the year before. They've had a great season. I congratulate them. From the first of August, they've been as good a team as any in baseball, and they'll represent this division well in the postseason."
The Cubs clinched the 2008 NL Central title with a win over the Cardinals at Wrigley Field. Now, they have other goals.
Ryan Dempster, for example, wants to reach 200 innings this season. He did not get a decision Thursday, serving up two runs over seven innings. He's at 186 innings, and will make two more starts, opening the final homestand next Tuesday against Pittsburgh and closing the season on Oct. 4 against Arizona.
Micah Hoffpauir doubled to lead off the fourth, moved up on Mike Fontenot's single and scored when Baker grounded into a double play. But the Giants tied the game with two outs in their half when Juan Uribe was safe on an infield single that Dempster knocked down, and then scored on John Bowker's double. Hoffpauir relayed the ball in to second baseman Fontenot, who was slow in getting the ball home for a possible play at the plate.
Bowker, who was 0-for-8 coming into the game and batting .178 overall, led off the seventh with his first homer of the season and second in his career off Dempster.