ST. LOUIS (AP) — Carlos Beltran was unaware that he had gone a season-long 24 games without a home run.
"I don't think about things like that," he said. "It's not about homers. It's about helping the team."
Beltran ended his drought with a tiebreaking shot, Adam Wainwright earned his 18th win and the St. Louis Cardinals beat Washington 4-3, 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 with five to play.
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 on Sunday.
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.
"It doesn't feel too good," manager Davey Johnson said. "We gave it a good fight. We just came up short.
"Now, we're spoilers. So it's not over for us."
Beltran's two-run homer in the fifth off rookie Tanner Roark broke a 2-all tie. It was his team-leading 24th of the season and first in 91 at-bats since Aug. 24.
"The last thing I was thinking about there was a home run," Beltran said. "I've been scuffling a little at the plate, but the way for that to go away is to keep playing and continue to swing the bat."
Wainwright (18-9) gave up three runs and seven hits over seven-plus innings. He struck out five, giving him a career-high 214 on the season.
"This was a great team win. Everybody did their part," Wainwright said.
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.