ST. LOUIS (AP) -- Carlos Beltran homered, Adam Wainwright earned his 18th win and the St. Louis Cardinals beat Washington 4-3 on Monday night, eliminating the Nationals from playoff contention.
Looking for their first NL Central title since 2009, the Cardinals maintained a two-game lead over Cincinnati and Pittsburgh and reduced their magic number to four.
All three teams are headed to the postseason. The Reds and Pirates both won Monday night, clinching at least a wild-card berth when Washington lost.
St. Louis secured no worse than a wild card on Sunday.
All three NL Central contenders have five games left.
The Nationals won the NL East last season with 98 wins but were eliminated by St. Louis in the division series. One year later, they were knocked out by the Cardinals again.
Beltran's two-run homer in the fifth off rookie Tanner Roark broke a 2-all tie. It was Beltran's team-leading 24th of the season and first in 91 at-bats since Aug. 24.
Wainwright (18-9) gave up three runs and seven hits over seven-plus innings. He struck out five, giving him a career-high 214 on the season.
Jayson Werth hit a two-run homer on the 15th pitch of the game. Wainwright then retired nine in a row and allowed just one run on five hits the rest of the way. He moved into second in the NL in wins behind Washington right-hander Jordan Zimmermann, who has 19.
Wainwright gave up two singles to begin the eighth. Trevor Rosenthal got two outs for his first career save.
Roark (7-1) gave up four runs and five hits in five innings for his first loss in four starts. He went 45 2-3 innings before allowing his first home run.
Washington closed to 4-3 in the eighth on singles by Anthony Rendon and Steve Lombardozzi and a groundout from Ryan Zimmerman. St. Louis reliever Carlos Martinez got Werth to ground out with a runner in scoring position to end the threat.
The Cardinals climbed within 2-1 on a run-scoring single by Yadier Molina in the first. They tied it on successive singles from David Freese, Daniel Descalso and Shane Robinson in the fourth.
Robinson replaced Matt Holliday in the lineup. Holliday was a game-time scratch for the second night in a row due to back spasms. He is day to day.
NOTES: Cardinals broadcaster Mike Shannon, 74, returned to the booth four weeks after undergoing surgery to replace an aortic valve in his heart. Shannon, who played on the Cardinals' 1964 and 1967 World Series championship teams, made his announcing debut in 1972. He received a standing ovation when his picture was flashed on the video screen during the second inning. ... The Cardinals have 92 wins, their most since winning 100 games in 2005. ... Cardinals 1B Allen Craig will be re-evaluated Thursday. Craig has missed the last 18 games with a left foot sprain sustained Sept. 4. ... The Nationals have a 24-8 advantage in homers over their last 17 games. ... St. Louis rookie Michael Wacha (3-1, 3.21 ERA) will face LHP Gio Gonzalez (11-7, 3.39) in the second game of the three-game set on Tuesday.
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder is discouraging Missouri residents from signing up for health insurance under a new online marketplace.
People can begin enrolling for insurance Oct. 1 under several options that will be offered by a federally run health insurance exchange. The online shopping site is a key part of the 2010 federal health care law signed by President Barack Obama.
Kinder, a Republican, has fought against the federal health care law. He said Monday that Missouri residents should actively resist it by refusing to sign up for coverage through the insurance exchange.
Specific insurance policy options and prices aren't known yet in Missouri, although they are in some other states. That's partly because a Missouri law prohibits state officials from taking steps to implement an insurance exchange.
COTTLEVILLE, Mo. (AP) - A panel of Missouri lawmakers came to suburban St. Louis on Monday for some firsthand testimony about the challenges of the state's school transfer rules.
Several area superintendents asked the interim House Committee on Education to seek a long-term fix to what they called a short-term solution to the problem of relocating students from failing school districts to better-performing ones.
The public hearing at St. Charles Community College came just weeks after hundreds of students from the unaccredited Normandy and Riverview Gardens began the fall semester riding buses to schools up to 20 to 30 miles away, with their former districts absorbing the added costs.
A second meeting is planned Monday night in St. Louis. Additional sessions are planned Tuesday and Wednesday in Cape Girardeau, Poplar Bluff, Branson and Joplin.
The Superintendent of Normandy Schools unveiled his plan to take the district back to accreditation.
Ty McNichols held a forum Monday to correct any misinformation about the district and lay out the 100-day plan. McNichols' plan focuses on improving graduation rates and attendance. The largest immediate obstacle for the district a huge financial shortfall. Normandy has to cover the costs for 1,000 students who transferred. That equates to a $15 million bill. McNichols says nothing is off the table to balance the budget, including staffing cuts and class consolidations.
Parents are invited to a second forum, Tuesday night at 6 PM, at the Indian Trails Library.