Carlos Beltran played in his 2060th regular-season game in the majors Monday night. He is the second most prodigious home-run hitter in postseason play behind Babe Ruth clouting one every 8.86 at-bats. He ranks third in postseason batting average at .363 behind Lou Brock and Paul Molitor.
But Beltran also ranks high in another category. He is listed behind only Detroit’s Torii Hunter among active players for having participated in the most games without reaching the World Series.

Now both have a chance to do that season although there are several games to be won by either team before there is any Fall Classic talk. But Beltran and the Cardinals took another step on the path at Busch Stadium when the Cardinals’ right fielder belted his first home run in a month a two-run shot that snapped a 2-2 tie and led the Cardinals to a 4-3 win over the Washington Nationals.

Adam Wainwright had a major hand in this too as he reached the 18-victory plateau for the third time in his career (he has had 19 and 20 previously) and set a single-season high for strikeouts at 214 and innings pitched at 236 1/3 as he survived a rocky first inning. And so did four Cardinals relievers the most notable being rookie Carlos Martinez who escaped a nasty spot in the eighth.

The Cardinals who ousted the Nationals from the National League playoffs last year officially eliminated them from qualifying for the playoffs this season in front of a Busch crowd of 39783. Meanwhile the Cardinals reduced their magic number to four for clinching their first Central Division crown since 2009 and moved to a half-game behind Atlanta for the best record in the league.

That honor at the end of the week will give that team home-field advantage throughout the National League playoffs but the Braves hold the tiebreaker if both teams finish with the same record because they won the season series from the Cardinals.

With both Pittsburgh and Cincinnati posting late-inning victories the Cardinals’ lead remained at two games over each with five to play although both the Pirates and Reds cemented playoff berths with their wins and Washington’s loss.