Manager Tony LaRussa was not making any excuses, but just a few hours after the Cardinals clinched the National League Central Division, a couple of bonehead plays led to a 4-3 loss.

The biggest came in the 9 th off Rockies closer Huston Street.  After Julio Lugo singled to lead off the inning, moved to second on an Albert Pujols intentional walk and stole third, the Cardinals had runners on first and third with one out, when Ryan Ludwick hit a looper to short right field that was hauled in by second basemen Clint Barmes who easily doubled off Pujols to end the game.

It was a great catch and with the tying run on third, I’m surprised Pujols made that blunder.  Tough decision for Pujols who would have been forced out a second if the ball drops in, but with the tying run on third, I think Pujols needs to give himself up  and stay near first base to take any double play out of the mix.

The Cardinals had an opportunity to blow the game open.  Pujols scored three with a double and St. Louis loaded the bases again in the same inning, but couldn’t score. 

The Cardinals have Monday off before opening a series against Cincinnati.  The Dodgers have a three game lead over the Cards for the best record in the National League.  If the Cards, who have the same record as Philadelphia edges out the Phillies for the second best record and Colorado holds onto their 2.5 game lead in the wildcard, this weekend provided a preview of the first round of the playoffs, which would be an interesting matchup with Matt Holliday playing against his former team and Jason Marquis pitching against the Cardinals.

If Philly finishes ahead of the Cardinals, St. Louis would open in LA.  The wild card winner does not play the winner of their division in the first round, but there is plenty of baseball in this final week and the jockeying for playoff positioning begins.