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Pujols breaks tie in the 9th

MILWAUKEE (AP) -- The St. Louis Cardinals broke out the champagne
and sprayed their way around a raucous clubhouse, celebrating their
NL Central championship.

Two days after they clinched it.

Albert Pujols' go-ahead single keyed a three-run ninth inning,
and the Cardinals beat the Milwaukee Brewers 7-4 Monday night for
their major league-leading 98th victory.

Under baseball's tiebreaker rules, St. Louis ensured its third
division title in five seasons on Saturday when the Cardinals beat
Arizona 7-0, and San Francisco and the Chicago Cubs both lost.

But manager Tony La Russa refused to acknowledge that his team
had already won the crown, both before and after Sunday's 3-2 loss
to Arizona.

La Russa wanted to clinch it on the field. He stormed out of his
postgame news conference after angrily responding to a question
about delaying the traditional champagne celebration.

So the bubbly just sat, chilling for two extra days -- until the
Cardinals let loose Monday night.

"The only thing that made this thing better was to do it
yesterday at Busch Stadium," a drenched La Russa said, standing in
front of lockers shielded by floor-to-ceiling plastic. "That's why
we were disappointed, because we cared. But this is a great
moment."

The Cardinals came to Milwaukee ready to party.

They packed up more than 20 cases of champagne and boxes of
championship hats and T-shirts and had the team's clubhouse
attendants drive it all up to Miller Park in two pickup trucks that
arrived 45 minutes before Monday's game.

After Trent Durrington made the final out, the Cardinals rushed
out of their dugout and lined up to congratulate each other.

La Russa stood at the end of the line and hugged the players
before they ducked into the tunnel to the clubhouse and the waiting
tubs of champagne and beer.

On the field they were subdued, but once they got in the locker
room, the party began. Wearing division championship hats and
T-shirts that sat locked up for two days like the champagne, they
sprayed each other and even a few club officials and their wives
who were trying to stay out of the way.

The celebration even extended out into Miller Park. Eight
Cardinals players went into the empty stands near the mascot's home
run slide. A few hardy ones even slid down the slide before
stopping for a group picture.

"In a division as tough as ours, this has great meaning for
us," La Russa said. "We worked hard to get to this."

St. Louis capitalized on Luis Vizcaino's wildness to tie it at 4
in the eighth, then went ahead with three runs in the ninth for its
44th comeback win.

Dan Kolb (0-4) gave up a single to Tony Womack in the ninth and
a walk to So Taguchi before Pujols lined a single to center to
drive in Womack. One out later, Roger Cedeno drove in Taguchi with
an infield single, and Edgar Renteria knocked in Pujols with a
single, chasing Kolb.

In the eighth, Renteria doubled with one out off Vizcaino. Mike
Matheny hit into a fielder's choice and Ray Lankford pinch-ran for
him. With Jim Edmonds pinch-hitting, Lankford advanced to third on
a pair of wild pitches. After Edmonds walked, Lankford scored on a
passed ball to tie the game.

"Just look at everybody that did something," La Russa said.
"Tony Womack, So Taguchi had an outstanding game, Albert, Reggie
(Sanders), Renteria, Cedeno comes off the bench, (John) Mabry comes
off the bench and does something."

Julian Tavarez (7-4) got the final out in the eighth for the
win. Jason Isringhausen pitched a perfect ninth for his 43rd save
in 50 chances.

"This is the best team we've had in the last four years,"
Pujols said. "We have guys who can play the game. That's what this
is all about.

"Now, we have to get to the World Series."

The Cardinals' rally sent the Brewers to their seventh straight
loss.

"They have a tremendous offense," Milwaukee manager Ned Yost
said. "Their pitching is very solid. They have a great manager and
coaching staff that does a fabulous job."

In the seventh, a suicide squeeze by Bill Hall gave the Brewers
a 4-3 lead.

Reliever Mike Adams couldn't hold a 3-2 lead in the top of the
seventh for the Brewers.

Marlon Anderson singled and stole second before Taguchi's
two-out double tied the game. Pujols was walked intentionally
before Vizcaino took over.

Matt Morris made his team-leading 31st start for St. Louis. He
left after five innings with the score tied at 2.

Morris allowed one earned run and five hits. He walked one and
struck out seven.

The Cardinals jumped ahead 2-0 on sacrifice flies by Pujols and
Womack.

Game notes
The Cardinals started Taguchi in center field to give
Edmonds a rest. ... Womack's single extended his hitting streak to
a season-high 13 games. ... Cardinals 3B Scott Rolen missed his
ninth straight start with a strained left calf.