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Cardinals win final game of season to claim NL Central title

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The Cardinals trounced the Cubs in the final game of the season on Sunday afternoon to claim the NL Central title. The club entered the day’s action leading the Brewers by one game. They took care of business themselves.

Paul Goldschmidt opened the scoring in the first inning with an RBI single. Marcell Ozuna put a second run on the board while grounding into a double play. Dexter Fowler smacked a two-run homer in the second. The Cardinals put up a four-spot in the third thanks to an RBI single from Ozuna and a three-run Matt Carpenter home run. Goldschmidt added a solo shot in the fourth to make it 9-0.

Jack Flaherty had little issue carving through the Cubs’ lineup. He tossed seven shutout innings, yielding just a pair of hits and a walk while striking out six. Flaherty ends the season 11-8 with a 2.75 ERA and a 231/55 K/BB ratio over 196 1/3 innings.

Giovanny Gallegos worked a scoreless eighth before handing the ball to Carlos Martínez for the ninth. Martínez worked a 1-2-3 frame to seal the deal, giving the Cardinals their division crown.

The Cardinals are back in the postseason for the first time since 2015, when they also won the NL Central. They will face the Braves in the NLDS. The Brewers, meanwhile, will face the Nationals in the NL Wild Card game. The winner of that game moves on to face the Dodgers in the NLDS.

Giants sign Darin Ruf to minor league contract

Darin Ruf
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The Athletic’s Jayson Stark reports that the Giants have signed 1B/OF Darin Ruf to a minor league contract.

Ruf, 33, played parts of five seasons in the majors with the Phillies from 2012-16, enjoying occasional offensive success. He spent the last three seasons in the KBO League in South Korea with the Samsung Lions, reigniting his career. Ruf hit an aggregate .313/.404/.564 with 86 home runs and 350 RBI over 1,756 plate appearances.

Ruf joins an ever-increasing list of players whose major league careers fizzled out, then found new life overseas — Eric Thames and Miles Mikolas are a couple of examples. Ruf will hope to prove himself as a big leaguer once more in spring training with the Giants.