CARDS BEAT CUBS, CLINCH NL CENTRAL: The St. Louis Cardinals clinched their first NL Central title in four years, beating the Cubs 7-0 Friday night behind the strong pitching of Lance Lynn and home runs by David Freese and Matt Holliday.
St. Louis (95-65) has won six of seven and is tied with Atlanta for the best record in the NL. They are assured of home-field advantage when the NL division series starts Thursday.
Adam Wainwright (18-9) was moved up to start today, putting the St. Louis ace on track to start his team's postseason opener against Cincinnati, Pittsburgh or the Los Angeles Dodgers.
SHIELDS LEADS ROYALS OVER SOX: James Shields struck out 10 and scattered four hits over seven innings for his 100th career win, and the Kansas City Royals beat Chicago 6-1 on Friday night to ensure the White Sox of their worst record since 1970.
At 62-98 with two games remaining, the White Sox will finish with the second-most losses in franchise history, ahead of only the team that went 56-106 more than four decades ago.
"Nobody wants that," manager Robin Ventura said before the game of reaching 100 losses. "Is it going to be the big difference going into next year? Probably not, but nobody wants that."
Shields (13-9) gave up just one run and walked one.
Billy Butler led the Royals with three hits and two RBIs, while Emilio Bonifacio drove in two runs with two hits.
The Royals took a 3-0 lead in the first off White Sox starter Chris Sale (11-14).
HAHN EXPECTS VENTURA TO RETURN NEXT SEASON: White Sox general manager Rick Hahn expects Robin Ventura to return to the dugout in 2014, and he plans to give Paul Konerko some space while the slugger decides whether he wants to play next year.
The White Sox are last in the AL Central at 62-97 heading into the season's final weekend. They need to win their last three games to avoid their most losses since finishing a franchise-worst 56-106 in 1970.
Hahn says he has completed his assessment of Ventura and he believes the manager has handled everything well.
INDIANA SCHOOLS GET EARLY START ON PRACTICE: Indiana's college teams can't afford to get distracted by the warm temperatures and sunny skies outside their gyms.
That's because it's already basketball season.
Yes, at Indiana, practice officially began Friday. At Butler and Purdue, things start today — two weeks earlier than the traditional start, minus the hoopla of Midnight Madness festivities and with the central Indiana forecast calling for temperatures in the upper 70s.
It seems strange to some to put up with the overbearing heat inside places such as Hinkle Fieldhouse.
But players and coaches don't seem to mind. They're ready to get started.
MICHIGAN'S MCGARY DEALING WITH BACK ISSUE: Michigan big man Mitch McGary, a Chesterton product, is dealing with an unspecified lower back condition that is limiting him in practice.
Coach John Beilein said Friday that McGary is day to day.
McGary's stock took off during last season's NCAA tournament, when he emerged as a force inside to help the Wolverines to their first Final Four since 1993. He considered a jump to the NBA after his freshman season but decided to come back for 2013-14.
BOILERMAKER SOPHOMORE HALE TO TRANSFER: Sophomore Donnie Hale has decided to transfer from Purdue to find more playing time.
Coach Matt Painter made the announcement Friday.
The 6-foot-8, 221-pound forward played in 32 games last season, started eight and averaged 3.8 points and 2.8 rebounds per game.
Purdue did not say where Hale will wind up, but he will have two years of eligibility left after already using his redshirt season.
BEARS ADD DEFENSIVE TACKLE: The Bears on Friday signed defensive tackle Landon Cohen and placed tackle Henry Melton on injured reserve due to a knee injury.
Cohen has appeared in 27 games with five starts with Detroit (2008-09), Jacksonville (2010), New England (2010-11) and Dallas (2013), recording 32 tackles.
Melton has started 32-of-48 career games played for Chicago, collecting 71 tackles, 15.5 sacks, three forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries and nine tackles for losses.
THREE STARTERS OUT FOR COLTS: The Colts will be missing three injured starters this weekend.
Coach Chuck Pagano said Friday that running back Ahmad Bradshaw, defensive lineman Ricky Jean Francois and Pro Bowl safety LaRon Landry will miss Sunday's game at Jacksonville.
Bradshaw missed practice all week with a neck injury, and his absence means newly acquired Trent Richardson will inherit a heavier workload.
Landry is still recovering from an ankle injury that kept him out of last week's game at San Francisco, and Jean Francois has not been back to work since leaving Sunday's game with a groin injury.
EARNHARDT WINS POLE AT DOVER: Dale Earnhardt Jr. turned a track record lap of 161.849 mph to win the pole at Dover International Speedway.
The top four qualifiers Friday are all from the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship. Points leader Matt Kenseth starts second, Ryan Newman is third and Carl Edwards fourth.
Around the horn
Tiger Woods has been voted PGA Tour player of the year for the 11th time. Jordan Spieth won rookie of the year after starting the season with no status and finishing 10th on the PGA Tour money list.