With a 7-0 win over the Chicago Cubs, the St. Louis Cardinals clinched their first National League Central division title since 2009.

The Cardinals provided the news via Twitter:

St. Louis rode starting pitcher Lance Lynn’s nine-strikeout performance to the win on Friday. Lynn received help from Matt Holliday and David Freese via the long ball, but it was his pitching performance that made the difference.

This is the third year in a row that the club will reach the postseason, which includes their run to a World Series title in 2011. Winning the division allows the squad to skip the one-game playoff between wild-card teams.

The NL Central has been one of the most competitive divisions in baseball, as the Cardinals, Pittsburgh Pirates and Cincinnati Reds were locked in a battle for the top spot all season. It’s the only division in the majors with three teams with at least 90 wins.

However, St. Louis was able to withstand its rivals thanks mostly to one of the best lineups in baseball. Veterans like Yadier Molina and Carlos Beltran paired with less-experienced players like Matt Adams and Matt Carpenter make this a tough offense to stop.

These players helped the Cardinals lead the National League in runs scored while also ranking among the top five in the majors in batting average, on-base percentage and doubles.

Although this is not a group that hits a lot of home runs, they make it work with great hitting in key situations.

Meanwhile, the starting rotation is nothing to scoff at with Cy Young contender Adam Wainwright leading a group that includes Shelby Miller and Michael Wacha, two of the best young pitchers in the game.

Although the bullpen has been shaky at times, Edward Mujica has been solid in his first full year as a closer.

St. Louis has been battle-tested this season in an incredibly tough division, and the players have as much playoff experience as anyone else in the majors. The organization has not missed a beat since Mike Matheny took over for Tony LaRussa as manager before last season, and they appear set for another deep run in the playoffs. 

After clinching the NL Central, the group has to be one of the favorites to not only reach the World Series, but to also win a title for the second time in three years.


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