ST. LOUIS - 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 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 tie at 2. It was Beltran's team-leading 24th of the season and first in 91 at-bats since Aug. 24.
Wainwright (18-9) gave up two runs and six 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 today.