Cards win, punch their ticket

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Chris Carpenter and the Cardinals will face the Phillies in the NLDS. (David J. Phillip/AP)

HOUSTON - Chris Carpenter and the St. Louis Cardinals won the National League wild card, beating the Houston Astros, 8-0, before watching the Atlanta Braves fall to the Phillies on Wednesday night.

The Cardinals and Atlanta began the day even in the wild-card race. When St. Louis finished, the Braves were tied with the Phillies in extra innings.

The Cardinals will face the Phillies in the NL division series, staring Saturday.

Carpenter (11-9) struck out 11 and allowed two hits in his 15th career shutout as St. Louis kept up its improbable September charge. The Cardinals won for the 23d time in 31 games, having trailed Atlanta by 101/2 games on Aug. 25.

The Cardinals poured onto the field after Carpenter fielded J.D. Martinez's weak grounder for the final out. The celebration was brief and muted, as the team raced into the clubhouse to watch the end of the game in Atlanta.

Kyle Lohse (14-8) would start for the Cardinals against Brandon Beachy (7-3) for the Braves in the tiebreaker.

Atlanta's game started an hour earlier, but the Cardinals virtually took away any hope for a Houston victory in the first inning of their contest, jumping to a 5-0 lead against Brett Myers (7-14).

Albert Pujols and Lance Berkman drove in runs with singles, and David Freese doubled to left-center before Myers even recorded an out. Berkman scored when Skip Schumaker's hard grounder ricocheted off Myers' glove for an infield hit, and Freese came home on Nick Punto's single to right.

Carpenter handled the rest.

He had struggled at Minute Maid Park lately, going 0-3 with a 4.62 ERA in his last five starts here, but he was in total command from the start on Wednesday, striking out five of the first nine hitters he faced. He also had an RBI single in the third to drive in Freese, who reached base when rightfielder Brian Bogusevic dropped his fly ball for an error.

Freese led off the fifth with a double to right-center, the Cardinals' 10th hit of the game. Myers, 4-0 with a 1.24 ERA in his last five starts, hadn't allowed more than nine hits in a start since Aug. 6.