ST. LOUIS, SEPT. 30 -- They had known for weeks that the moment could come. In the last few days, they pretty much knew it would come. And when it finally did come, the Pittsburgh Pirates let loose.
Doug Drabek jumped up and down and hugged first baseman Sid Bream. Barry Bonds and John Smiley carried Manager Jim Leyland off the field.
After 11 long years, the Pirates are champions of the National League East again. "Our fans have waited a long time for this," a red-eyed Bobby Bonilla said, "and it's a pleasure to bring it to them."
Drabek (22-6), the NL Cy Young Award favorite, closed out the clincher in style, beating the St. Louis Cardinals, 2-0, today on a three-hitter.
"During the game I tried to keep it like any other start," said Drabek.
The celebration began near first base after Denny Walling grounded out to end the game. In keeping with NL President Bill White's order, the traditional champagne spraying was done in a private room out of range of television.
"I think that champagne is as much a tradition as the national anthem, the seventh-inning stretch and hot dogs," Andy Van Slyke groused. "If this thing goes another 20 years without champagne, I'll have to become commissioner."
Bream interrupted Leyland's postgame chat with reporters, hoisting him over one shoulder and hauling him into the room.
"There's a lot of happy guys in there," said Gary Redus, whose eighth-inning sacrifice fly broke a scoreless tie. "It's the first time for a lot of people and it's special."
Pittsburgh, which has won a season-high seven straight games and 10 of 11, will play Cincinnati starting Thursday in a rematch of the 1979 NL playoffs. The Reds and the Pirates were the only NL teams not to win division titles in the 1980s.
The New York Mets chased the Pirates all season, occasionally overtaking them. But now it's over, the day before their long-touted three-game, season-ending series in Pittsburgh.
"That's kind of like the final nail in the coffin to me," Van Slyke said while holding his 20-month-old son, Jared, in the Pirates clubhouse. "There's a lot of people going home in the subway disappointed."
He was referring to the Mets fans at Shea Stadium, who found out their season was over during the ninth inning of New York's 6-5 loss to Chicago.
Pittsburgh last clinched the East on Sept. 30, 1979 -- exactly 11 years ago -- and also won in 1970, 1971, 1972, 1974 and 1975.
While the Pirates reached the top, the Cardinals dropped to 70-89 and ensured they will finish last for the first time since 1918. It was the longest streak any club had gone without finishing last.
Drabek pitched his third shutout of the season and ninth complete game. He walked none and pitched to only one batter over the minimum. He has lost only twice in 18 starts since June 28.
Drabek gave up a double to Terry Pendleton in the second, a single to Jose Oquendo in the third and a single to Milt Thompson in the fifth. But he stranded Pendleton on third and helped himself by picking off both Oquendo and Thompson.
Joe Magrane (10-17) took a three-hitter into the eighth, but the Pirates filled the bases on singles by Don Slaught, Jose Lind and Drabek. Redus followed with a fly to medium center to break the tie.
"In the on-deck circle I was shaking," Redus said. "But after the first pitch it was time to get the job done. The way Dougie was pitching that's all we needed."
After Jay Bell walked to reload the bases, the Pirates got another run when Van Slyke grounded to first and Lind beat a wide throw from Pedro Guerrero at the plate.
Cubs 6, Mets 5: The Mets lost in New York already knowing Pittsburgh had clinched the division.
The Mets, favored to win the title, were frustrated yet again as Chicago rallied for two runs in the ninth inning off John Franco.
While turning a 2-0 deficit on Andre Dawson's homer into a 5-2 lead, the Mets watched the scoreboard as the Pirates and Cardinals battled through seven scoreless innings. The Mets were hoping to pull within three games of first and then sweep a three-game series in Pittsburgh to force a one-game playoff. When the Shea Stadium scoreboard flashed Pittsburgh scoring two runs in the eighth inning, there was a groan from the fans and several hundred headed for the exits.
The Pirates' 2-0 victory was posted on the scoreboard in the top of the ninth and several Mets bowed their heads and toyed with dirt. Trailing, 5-4, the Cubs scored two runs on Derrick May's RBI single and an error by shortstop Howard Johnson.
With Darryl Strawberry (back) and Kevin McReynolds (toe) both out of the lineup for the third straight day, Mets center fielder Daryl Boston made a backhanded catch in right-center field to rob Ryne Sandberg in the fifth, but hit the base of the outfield fence and sustain a slight left shoulder separation.