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Cubs eliminate Cards from playoff contention behind unheralded backups

Leonys Martin leaps and reached over the wall to make the catch for the final out in Thursday's 2-1 victory.

ST. LOUIS – Easily lost in the post-champagne haze the day after the Cubs clinched their third consecutive playoff appearance were a handful of milestones and significant moments for the team and a few of its younger players.

With only the three-game weekend series against the Reds left in the regular season, the Cubs beat the Cardinals 2-1 in 11 innings Thursday night at Busch Stadium, winning three of four in the series.

Along the way:

–They eliminated the Cardinals from playoff contention.

–They finished 14-5 against the Cardinals this season, most wins against their rivals in a season since going 15-3 against them in 1978.

–They reached 90 wins for three consecutive seasons for the first time since 1928-30, needing a National League-best 47-24 burst from the All-Star break to get there. “Believe me, that was not lost on me,” manager Joe Maddon said of the benchmark win. “From the All-Star break to now, give our guys a ton of credit for the mental and physical effort they’ve made.”

–They won only after outfielder Leonys Martin – who made the routine catch in center for the final out of Wednesday’s clincher – ended this one by leaping and reaching over the center-field wall to rob Paul DeJong of a tying homer. “One of the better catches you’re going to see anywhere,” Maddon said. “Spectacular.”

<em>Jen-Ho Tseng</em>
Jen-Ho Tseng

–The victory went to Jen-Ho Tseng, the rookie who was surprisingly called up two weeks ago for a spot start against the Mets in his major-league debut. In his first outing since that nerve-influenced clunker, Tseng got the final nine outs of the game, allowing only a 10th inning walk that was erased on a caught-stealing. “I wasn’t that nervous at all,” said Tseng, who hopes to carry the experience into spring training and a chance to make the 2018 staff. “It’s a huge difference. It gives me a lot of confidence.”

–The game-winning run scored on Taylor Davis’ first big-league hit to travel more than 40 feet – a two-out double to left that followed three strikeouts in a game for the first time in his professional career. “I went from the lowest of lows to literally the coolest thing I’ve ever done,” he said, quickly adding, “other than marrying my wife.”

<em>Taylor Davis</em>
Taylor Davis

–And, by the way, starter Kyle Hendricks continued his dominant finishing kick to his season with five scoreless innings in a tuneup for what could be a Game 1 playoff start.