ST. LOUIS (AP) – Jack Flaherty fired two-hit ball over seven innings and the St. Louis Cardinals clinched their first NL Central title in five years by ripping the Chicago Cubs, 9-0. Matt Carpenter’s three-run blast gave the Cards an eight-run cushion. Dexter Fowler belted a two-run homer in the second and Paul Goldschmidt added a solo blast after his RBI single put the Cardinals ahead in the first inning.
ST. LOUIS (AP) – Manager Joe Maddon will not be back with the Cubs next season after they failed to make the playoffs for the first time in five years. Maddon led Chicago to the postseason the previous four years and was on the bench when the 2016 Cubs won the World Series to end a 108-year championship drought. Chicago was poised to reach the postseason this month until a nine-game losing streak led to the Cubs’ elimination.
PITTSBURGH (AP) – The Pirates have fired manager Clint Hurdle following a stunning second-half collapse that dropped Pittsburgh to the bottom of the NL Central and included a series of off-the-field issues. Pittsburgh went 69-93 overall and 25-48 after the All-Star break. Hurdle went 735-720 in nine seasons with Pittsburgh, helping the franchise emerge from 20 years of losing to reach the playoffs three straight years from 2013-15.
CONCORD, N.C. (AP) – Chase Elliott overcame a major mistake to win NASCAR’s Cup playoff race at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Elliott recovered from an earlier gaffe when he was leading on a restart, locked his wheels headed into the first turn and drove directly into a tire barrier. Alex Bowman finished second in the race and managed to advance to the second round when Ryan Newman missed a chicane, an error that cost him his shot at joining the final 12.
UNDATED (AP) – Alabama is No. 1 in The Associated Press college football poll for the first time this season, replacing preseason No. 1 Clemson following the Tigers’ 21-20 win at North Carolina. Alabama received 29 of 61 first-place votes from the media panel, while second-ranked Clemson claimed 18. Third-ranked Georgia picked up four first-place votes and No. 4 Ohio claimed seven. LSU is ranked 5th. Wisconsin stayed put at 8th and Iowa is still ranked 14th this week.