The Houston Astros charged into the playoffs with their 18th consecutive home victory, capping an incredible turnaround by beating the Colorado Rockies, 5-3, yesterday to win the NL wild card.
Brandon Backe filled in for an ailing Roger Clemens, pitching five solid innings and driving in two runs for the Astros.
Houston won its final seven games and nine of the last 10 to complete an amazing late-season push under Manager Phil Garner, who replaced Jimy Williams at the all-star break.
The Astros, who will go to Atlanta for Game 1 of the division series on Wednesday, have gone 36-10 since Aug. 14 and their 18-game home winning streak is the longest in the majors since Cleveland won 18 straight at Jacobs Field from May 13 to June 19, 1994.
It's the second straight year an NL team replaced its manager in the middle of the season and went on to win the wild card. Jack McKeon led the Marlins to a surprising World Series title in 2003.
Clemens was set to start on three days' rest, but he was scratched in the morning after coming down with a stomach virus.
* METS 8, EXPOS 1: Montreal ended its 36-year run right where it all started.
The Expos lost their final game before moving to Washington, with Todd Zeile hitting a three-run homer -- his 253rd -- in his final at-bat in New York's win at Shea Stadium.
The Montreal Expos finished with a record of 2,753-2,943-4. The team first took the field on April 8, 1969. Their first hitter, Maury Wills, struck out against Tom Seaver, but Montreal rallied for an 11-10 victory.
* GIANTS 10, DODGERS 0: In Los Angeles, Jason Schmidt pitched six dominant innings, while Ray Durham and Pedro Feliz hit first-inning homers for San Francisco.
Giants Manager Felipe Alou removed Barry Bonds and several other regulars shortly after the Astros beat the Rockies to eliminate San Francisco from the wild-card race. Bonds won his second NL batting title in three seasons and shattered the on-base percentage and walks records he set two years ago.
Bonds, 40, finished with 45 homers, boosting his career total to 703.
Schmidt (18-7) finished with 251 strikeouts, breaking the San Francisco record of 248 set by Juan Marichal in 1963.
* PIRATES 2, REDS 0: In Cincinnati, Oliver Perez (12-10) gave up five hits and struck out nine in six innings, finishing with a 2.98 ERA. Jose Mesa notched his 43rd save for the Pirates, who completed their 12th straight losing season, matching Milwaukee for the longest current streak of futility.
Reds captain Barry Larkin, 40, played what might have been his final game for his hometown team. Reds broadcaster Joe Nuxhall is retiring after his 38th year in the booth. Adam Dunn struck out to finish with a record 195 strikeouts.
Jack Wilson doubled in his first at-bat for his 201st hit, tying Honus Wagner's Pittsburgh record for a shortstop set in 1908.
* CUBS 10, BRAVES 8: Greg Maddux beat his former team as Chicago closed out the season with a win at Wrigley Field. Maddux (16-11) worked six innings for the win. He has 305 victories, 194 with the Braves and 111 for the Cubs.
* CARDINALS 9, BREWERS 4: Ray Lankford had a two-run, pinch-hit homer to help St. Louis win at home. The Cardinals finished a major league-best 105-57, one win shy of the franchise record for victories set in 1942.
* PHILLIES 10, MARLINS 4: Bobby Abreu hit his 30th homer and Jimmy Rollins had a grand slam for Philadelphia at home. Florida outfielder Juan Pierre became just the third player since 1971 to play every one of his team's innings in the field, joining Detroit's Travis Fryman (1995) and Baltimore's Cal Ripken Jr. (1983-86). Pierre finished with an NL-best 221 hits.
* DIAMONDBACKS 4, PADRES 1: Doug DeVore, Robby Hammock and Juan Brito homered for host Arizona, which went a major league-worst 51-111.