The only folks who expected such a finish were those five Cincinnati Reds fans who brought brooms.
They waved their brooms in the outfield stands last night after Ken Griffey Jr. hit his 491st homer and Austin Kearns hit a three-run shot in the eighth for a 7-5 victory and a four-game sweep of the Houston Astros.
Kearns's tiebreaking homer off Brad Lidge (0-3) pushed Cincinnati a half-game ahead of the Chicago Cubs for the NL Central lead. A club that lost 93 games and traded away stars last season has the league's best record, having swept a team counted among the NL's best.
"Those guys are as good as it gets," Kearns said, with shaving cream smeared in his hat and shirt after an impromptu celebration. "Just to win the series would have been sweet. To sweep is great. I can't say enough."
The Astros had the misfortune to run into a streaking team on its home field.
Cincinnati has won six in a row -- its best spurt since 2002 -- to grab sole possession of first place for the first time since April 15. The Reds have won nine of 10 overall.
The Astros hadn't been swept in a four-game series since June 24-27, 1999, when the Reds did it in the Astrodome. Houston has lost a season-high five in a row.
John Riedling (3-0) got the win despite giving up Lance Berkman's tying, two-run homer in the seventh. Danny Graves got three outs for his major league-leading 21st save in 25 chances.
* MARLINS 13, DIAMONDBACKS 5: Juan Pierre drove in four runs, and Ramon Castro broke out of a season-long slump with three RBI as Florida won at home.
The victory was Jack McKeon's 100th as Marlins manager and it pulled Florida into a tie with Philadelphia atop the NL East.
Jeff Conine homered and Carl Pavano earned the win for the Marlins, who took three of four from Arizona.
Steve Finley hit his major league-leading 14th homer for the Diamondbacks.
Pavano (4-2) yielded three runs and six hits in seven innings, taking advantage of rare run support.
* BRAVES 5, EXPOS 0: Andruw Jones homered twice and John Thomson pitched Atlanta to a victory over the punchless Expos in Montreal.
J.D. Drew also connected for Atlanta, which has won four of five following a three-game losing streak to move within one game of .500.
Playing before only 4,675 fans, Montreal lost its fifth straight one day after the final game of its three-game series against San Francisco in Puerto Rico was rained out.
The Expos, an NL-worst 14-30, have been shut out eight times in 44 games.