NEW YORK - The New York Mets ended nearly two decades of disappointment in their division and days of delay, clinching the NL East for the first time since 1988 with a 4-0 victory over the Florida Marlins on Monday night.
Jose Valentin, one of their unexpected stars, homered twice and Steve Trachsel, their longest-tenured player, combined with three relievers on a four-hitter.
Fireworks shot off from behind the center-field wall when Cliff Floyd caught Josh Willingham's fly ball to left for the final out. The Mets rushed to the center of the diamond to celebrate, hugging near shortstop.
"We have a lot of work to do, but we'll celebrate tonight," Mets general manager Omar Minaya said. "Right now we're going to celebrate, enjoy and exhale."
Led by the power of Carlos Beltran and Carlos Delgado, the pitching of Pedro Martinez and Tom Glavine, the spark of Jose Reyes and David Wright, and the closing of Billy Wagner, the Mets took over the NL East lead for good with a 2-1 record April 6 and put together the best record in the major leagues (91-58).
"This is why I came here. I thought we had a chance to do this," Glavine said.
ASTROS 5, REDS 3
In Houston, Roy Oswalt pitched 62/3 innings to continue his mastery of Cincinnati.
Oswalt (14-8) allowed two runs and eight hits to improve his career record to 17-1 against Cincinnati. He struck out eight and didn't walk a batter before leaving with muscle spasms in his neck.
Oswalt was 15-0 against Cincinnati until April 28, the longest streak without a loss for one pitcher against one team in major league history. He lost that day but started another streak against the Reds with a win at Cincinnati on Aug. 23.
The Astros kept their fleeting wild card hopes alive as they crept to within six games of the lead pending the outcome of the Dodgers-Padres game later.
The Reds slipped to 5 games back in the wild card race.
Dan Wheeler allowed pinch-hitter Todd Hollandsworth's solo homer in the ninth before finishing for his sixth save in eight chances.
CUBS 11, PHILLIES 6
In Philadelphia, Aramis Ramirez homered twice and drove in a career-best seven runs as Chicago held off Philadelphia.
Pinch-hitter Jose Hernandez hit a grand slam in the fourth inning to bring Philadelphia within two runs after trailing 8-0, but five Cubs relievers held the Phillies scoreless over the last five innings.
Ramirez went 4-for-5 and Juan Pierre and Scott Moore hit solo homers for Chicago, which has the NL's worst record.
Philadelphia entered play one game behind the wild card-leading Los Angeles Dodgers.
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