ST. LOUIS -- The St. Louis Cardinals finished their season with a season-best six game winning streak. It was almost enough for manager Tony La Russa to forget his club failed to make the playoffs for the second consecutive year.
"October baseball is the best, so this is two years without it," he said. "I feel really great about the club. I feel great about the 10 over, but I'm not a happy camper."
He found plenty to enjoy Sunday afternoon, when the Cardinals defeated the Cincinnati Reds 11-4 to end both teams' seasons. Felipe Lopez drove in three runs and emergency starter Brad Thompson threw five effective innings as the Cardinals marked their best run to end a season since 1943.
St. Louis finished the regular season 86-76, its best mark since 2005 and better than 2006, when the Cardinals won the World Series.
Lopez had three of the Cardinals' 13 hits, including two doubles, in the first three innings and finished 4-for-5 with the three RBIs. Ryan Ludwick had his 37th home run of the season to give the Cardinals a 2-0 lead after one and Troy Glaus added his 27th homer in a six-run third against Adam Pettyjohn (0-1).
"On a sour note, we didn't make the playoffs," said Ludwick, who tied Albert Pujols for most homers on the team, "but we finished strong -- a lot of guys finished strong."
Ludwick ended with a career-best in nearly every offensive category, including a .299 batting average. Glaus finished with a .270 average, his best since hitting .284 in his second season with the Angels in 2000, and his 99 RBIs marked his second best total since 2002.
Pettyjohn's first start in seven years lasted just over two innings during which he gave up eight runs on seven hits. The left-hander began a battle with ulcerative colitis in 2002 while with Minnesota and eventually underwent three surgeries, including one to remove his colon.
"I felt fine," he said. "They got some pitches to hit and got the results they wanted. I just left some pitches out over the plate."
Thompson (6-3) gave up three runs -- two on a homer by Edwin Encarnacion -- on four hits. He got the start after right-hander Kyle Lohse was scratched to undergo physicals with team doctors. The Cardinals planned a news conference for Monday, when it is expected they will announce a new contact for Lohse, who finished with a team- and career-high 15 victories.
Lohse refused after the game to say how close he and the team were to completing a deal, but said he wouldn't be shocked to be in a Cardinals uniform beyond this season. The front office notified La Russa late Saturday night to skip Lohse's final start of the year and the manager said he figured that meant only one thing.
"It's a good sign that he had an exam," La Russa said. "Evidently, they're getting into a serious conversation, but I don't think the deed is done. I don't want to take that for granted.
"I'm excited that they're having a serious conversation and that he's had a physical."
Albert Pujols was pulled for a pinch runner after doubling in a run during the third. He finished 1-for-2 and ended the year with team highs in RBIs (116) and batting average (.357), but lost the batting title to Chipper Jones of the Braves.
It was Pujols' best mark since 2003 when he lead the league with a .359 average.
Gary Majewski came on in relief of Pettyjohn with runners on first and second in the third but did not fare much better. He gave up a single and three consecutive doubles, including a two-run shot by Lopez before getting out of the inning.
The six-game winning streak to end the season was the Cardinals' best finish since the 1943 team won its final six. ... The Cardinals finished 70-18 when getting at least 10 hits in a game. ... Pettyjohn was the first left-hander to start for the Reds this season. ... Ludwick extended his season-high hitting streak to 11 games with his home run. ... Cardinals C Jason LaRue was twice hit by a pitch. ... The Cardinals finished the season with their third-best attendance mark in franchise history with 3,432,917. They recorded 3,552,180 a year ago and had 3,538,948 in 2005 during their final year at the previous Busch Stadium.