Reigning World Series champions St. Louis captured the final Major League Baseball playoff berth when the Los Angeles Dodgers lost 4-3 to the visiting San Francisco Giants.
Buster Posey and Joaquin Arias homered for the Giants and Marco Scutaro doubled in two runs on Tuesday to help playoff-bound San Francisco end the post-season dreams of the Dodgers on the penultimate night of the six-month campaign.
A.J. Ellis smacked a two-run homer in the seventh to pull the Dodgers within the final margin but it was too little and too late as the Cardinals claimed a National League wild-card berth as one of the top non-division champions.
St. Louis, which fell to 87-74 earlier with a 3-1 loss to Cincinnati, had to have a victory or Dodgers' defeat to claim the final spot. The Giants inflicted the loss, dropping Los Angeles to 85-76 with only one game remaining.
The Cardinals qualified for the playoffs on the last day of the season last year but battled into the World Series, where they knocked off Texas in a best-of-seven championship showdown that went the distance.
Joining the Cardinals and Giants in the National League playoffs will be the Washington Nationals, Cincinnati Reds and Atlanta Braves.
Jay Bruce and Dioner Navarro each singled in a run in the sixth inning for Cincinnati to keep the Cardinals on edge and keep the Reds even with Washington at 97-64 for the best record in the league and a home-field playoff edge.
Washington, which downed Philadelphia 4-2 Tuesday, can clinch a home-field edge throughout the playoffs by beating the Phillies again Wednesday because they own a tie-breaker edge on the Reds for having won their season series.
The Nationals will be the first playoff team from the US capital since 1933.
St. Louis opened the scoring against the Reds when Matt Holliday's sacrifice fly drove in Jon Jay but Cincinnati equalized on Scott Rolen's solo homer in the fourth inning, setting the stage for Bruce and Navarro's decisive hits.
At Washington, Philadelphia's Darin Ruf hit two homers but Adam LaRoche hit a solo homer for the Nationals, who also got run-scoring singles from Roger Bernadina and Steve Lombardozzi and a run-scoring sacrifice fly by Lombardozzi.