The Cardinals won their third straight NL Central title on Sunday despite a 5-3 loss to the Brewers, backing into the playoffs thanks to Houston's loss in Atlanta. But the Cardinals, who lost nine of their last 12, avoided perhaps the biggest September collapse in major league history when the Astros were eliminated with a 3-1 loss to the Braves. The final out in that game came with one out in the bottom of the fifth and the Brewers leading 5-0, prompting a huge ovation from a sellout crowd. Relieved manager Tony La Russa handed out congratulatory hugs in the dugout.