The "magic number" for clinching the division title, which had been stuck on five for a long while and then finally had gone to four, moved quickly to two as the Houston Astros lost at Atlanta. A Cardinals victory on Saturday afternoon and a Houston loss Saturday night would give the Cardinals their third straight National League Central Division title.
"We try to take care of our own business, and we did that tonight," said Cardinals manager Tony La Russa.
The Cardinals' 82nd victory also ensured they would have a winning season and made it unlikely they would have to play a makeup game against San Francisco on Monday.
A couple of players who had been quiet lately broke out for the Cardinals, Juan Encarnacion, whose average had slipped to .276, had four hits, and Scott Rolen, whose average has dropped under .300 after being over it most of the season, had three hits.
But it was Albert Pujols who had the biggest hit, cracking his 48th homer to highlight a five-run fifth inning.
Preston Wilson, getting a second straight start, homered for the second game in a row.
REPLAY: Jeff Weaver, who had scored four victories on the road for the Cardinals after coming over from the Los Angeles Angels, posted his first home win by beating Milwaukee, 10-5, Friday night. It was his third consecutive win overall.
The Cardinals, who had lost eight of their previous nine games, took an early lead at 2-1 on Preston Wilson's two-run homer and put the game away with a five-run fifth inning.
--SS David Eckstein, who was a late scratch on Thursday because of his strained left hamstring, was a last-minute addition to the lineup Friday.
He played six innings and was hit in the leg by a pitch, but stayed in the game for two at-bats after that before coming out.
--1B Albert Pujols' total of 136 RBIs pulled him into a tie with 1B "Sunny" Jim Bottomley (1928) for 10th on the Cardinals' single-season list.
--RF Juan Encarnacion had four hits in a game for the second time this year.
--The Cardinals ensured they would have a seventh straight winning season. The only time they missed the playoffs in that span was in 2003.
--The Cardinals won a game started by a left-hander (Chris Capuano) for just the 23rd time in 57 games.
BY THE NUMBERS: 23 -- Number of games the Cardinals lost in three long winless streaks (8, 8 and 7). QUOTE TO NOTE: "This is the most huge of the huge ones he's had." -- Manager Tony La Russa, on 1B Albert Pujols' game-winning homer to beat San Diego 4-2 and end a losing streak at seven games.