Although the celebration had to take place on the road, it was still sweet for the the Florida Marlins.
The Marlins, who entered the league as an expansion team in 1993 and spent nearly $90 million on free agents this past off-season, clinched their first postseason berth Tuesday night with a 6-3 victory over the Montreal Expos at Montreal.
Florida will make its first trip to the playoffs as the NL's wild-card team and will face the NL West champion in the opening round.
"We got here, we were expected to be here," Moises Alou said as champagne sprayed across the Marlins' clubhouse. "Now we'll see how far we can go."
Kevin Brown (16-8) won his seventh consecutive decision and set a Marlin record for strikeouts in a season. Brown struck out eight in six solid innings to increase his career-high total to 205. Brown hasn't lost since July 27.
The right-hander gave up three runs and eight hits to beat Montreal for the first time in five career outings.
Charles Johnson's two-out RBI single brought in the go-ahead run in the fifth inning for Florida, which had its playoff plans put on hold by losing three in a row to the New York Mets.
"I think we were a little flat the last few days," said Jeff Conine, an original Marlin whose two-run homer in the ninth gave Florida a 6-3 lead. "We knew we were going to do it. It's nice that we did it ourselves. We didn't have to wait for someone to help us out."
Bobby Bonilla and Alou hit RBI singles in the fifth and Gary Sheffield had a sacrifice fly in the first for the Marlins.
"This is what I came here for," said Alou, who left Montreal as a free agent in the off-season. "Unfortunately, it didn't work out for us in Montreal. I feel a little bad to be celebrating in front of my old teammates, but I am happy."
Florida Manager Jim Leyland, in his first year with the Marlins, refused to take credit for the team's success.
"All of this belongs to the Marlins organization, not Jim Leyland," said Leyland, who guided Pittsburgh to three NL East titles in the early 1990s. "This is a win for the organization.
"I'm a Johnny-come-lately," Leyland said. "A lot of the credit goes to [former managers] Rene Lachemann and John Boles. The Marlins acquired a good team. I think either one of those guys could have managed it into the playoffs."
Houston 5, Chicago 3--Craig Biggio and Jeff Bagwell homered as the Astros moved closer to their first division title since 1986 by beating the Cubs at Houston.
Biggio tied the score at 3-3 with a sixth-inning homer, and Tony Eusebio singled in the go-ahead run in the sixth off Steve Trachsel (8-12). Bagwell hit his 43rd homer in the fourth.
Houston, which remained 3 1/2 games ahead of second-place Pittsburgh in the NL Central, overcame one-run deficits three times and cut its magic number to two.
Darryl Kile (19-7), trying to become Houston's first 20-game winner since Mike Scott in 1989, gave up six hits in 8 1/3 innings, struck out six and walked two. Billy Wagner finished for his 22nd save.
Pittsburgh 5, New York 4--Shawon Dunston hit a tiebreaking single in the seventh inning and the Pirates held their ground in the NL Central race with the victory at New York, moments after the Mets had been eliminated from playoff contention.
Jose Silva (2-1) was the winner and Rich Loiselle got four outs for his 28th save, the second-highest in major league history for a rookie, trailing only Todd Worrell's 36 saves in 1986 for St. Louis.
Cincinnati 8, St. Louis 6--Mark McGwire is hitting again, just no long balls.
"It'd be great to have like a couple days off not talking to the media," McGwire said. "It would be awesome. There's other guys on this team. It's a team sport. Remember that."
Millwood (5-3) took a no-hitter into the seventh before Mike Lieberthal doubled to right-center with one out. The 22-year-old right-hander, making his eighth start this season, struck out a career-high eight and walked four in his longest outing.
St. Louis General Manager Walt Jocketty, who helped the Cardinals end a nine-year postseason drought last season, signed a three-year contract extension. . . .
Las Vegas is giving up its effort to lure major league teams for spring training, after convincing only the Houston Astros to move their training camp here. Tourism officials voted not to continue a four-year push to land four major league teams, saying the return to the city wouldn't be worth the expense.
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BESTS OF THE DAY
Player Team Performance Team's Result Todd Zeile Dodgers 2 solo home runs Win S. Dunston Pittsburgh 3 for 4, 3 RBIs Win A. Galarraga Colorado 3-run home run for 137 RBIs Win
Player Team Performance Team's Result Kevin Brown Florida 6 innings, 3 runs, 8 hits, 8 strikeouts Win Darryl Kile Houston 8 1/3 innings, 3 runs, 6 hits, 6 strikeouts Win Kevin Millwood Atlanta 8 innings, 0 runs, 2 hits, 8 strikeouts Win