Cardinals open final homestand vs. Nationals
Washington skipper Davey Johnson
Washington skipper Davey Johnson

Posted Sep 28, 2012


Washington brings MLB’s best record to St. Louis with hopes of clinching the NL East this weekend.

INSIDE PITCH

 

When the Washington Nationals open a three-game series with the Cardinals beginning Friday in St. Louis, there is a good chance that, in an oddity, both teams will be celebrating before the weekend is over, perhaps even on the same day.

 

The Nationals already are in the playoffs for the first time but have not clinched the National League East title yet. The Cardinals are likely to be the second wild-card team but have not clinched that yet. And, depending on how their pursuers do in each category, there is a possibility that both could clinch respective berths in the same game, no matter who wins.

 

As defending World Series champions, the Cardinals' veterans have discussed how to celebrate the much more modest achievement of winning the second wild card. The Atlanta Braves, celebrating at least a wild-card berth, marked the moment with a raucous champagne celebration.

 

But Cardinals right-hander Adam Wainwright said, "No disrespect to what they did, but I think we're going to save the big pop for after we beat Atlanta."

 

There was a school of thought that there should be something for the very few young players who did not get to partake in last year's celebrations.

 

Manager Mike Matheny said, "You can't take one day of this game for granted, let alone getting to the postseason. It's a big deal. For many, it's the first time; for some it's the last. To take it lightly would be a mistake."

 

But Matheny also cautioned not to look too far ahead.

 

"We're playing well," Matheny said. "If we start getting our minds somewhere other than what's been effective for us, that's not good."

 

NOTES, QUOTES

RHP Kyle Lohse, expected to start the wild-card game Oct. 5 if the Cardinals are playing in it, is scheduled to make his final regular-season start on Saturday against Washington. If Lohse wins and hikes his record to 17-3, it will be the highest percentage for any starter with that many wins in Cardinals history. RHP Chris Carpenter was 17-4 in 2009.

RF Carlos Beltran, 3-for-20 on the trip, probably will be back in the lineup after getting a start off on Wednesday in Houston. Beltran has been receiving periodic breaks as manager Mike Matheny tries to help regenerate Beltran into the dominant player he was in the first half of the season. "Right now, he's really struggling and fighting," said Matheny. "It's hard for him not to be able to do what he's capable of doing."

3B David Freese, one game shy of his first 140-game season in the majors, should be able to reach that plateau sometime this weekend. Freese, who sprained his right ankle in a freak accident in the indoor batting cage in Houston on Monday, hopes to play by the end of the three-game Washington series in St. Louis.

RHP Adam Wainwright, who has no wins in September after going 5-1 in August, will seek to go over .500 for the season (he is 13-13) when he faces Washington on Friday night in St. Louis. Wainwright hasn't won in his last five starts.

SS Pete Kozma, who apparently will be the Cardinals' shortstop the rest of the regular season and into the postseason, had one of his few poor games on Wednesday night, committing his second error in two games and fanning three times in a row, including once when he failed to bunt in the eighth inning.

By the Numbers:

28-17 - Cardinals' record in games started by left-handers. They will face Washington southpaw John Lannan on Friday.

Quote to Note:

"We have the ability, no question about it. We have a lineup that's fantastic. We have a bullpen that's been great. Our starting pitching has been pitching well. We just need to start putting everything together."

- RHP Chris Carpenter, on the state of the Cardinals.

MEDICAL WATCH

RHP Jake Westbrook (strained right oblique) was injured Sept. 8, and he probably is out for the rest of the regular season. He encountered discomfort in a bullpen session Sept. 22 in Chicago and had to stop throwing.

1B Lance Berkman (sore right knee) underwent additional surgery Sept. 14 and was thought to be out for the season, but he said he still wants to try to play.

SS Rafael Furcal (torn ligament in right elbow) was placed on the 15-day disabled list Aug. 31 and is out for the season. He might need Tommy John surgery, but he got a platelet-rich plasma injection on Sept. 4 in the hopes of avoiding having to go under the knife, but as of Sept. 19 he still hadn't been able to do any baseball activities.

RHP Kyle McClellan (torn labrum in right shoulder) went on the 15-day disabled list May 18 due to a strained right elbow, and he was transferred to the 60-day DL on June 30. He threw on flat ground for the first time July 3, but he subsequently felt shoulder pain. He had season-ending shoulder surgery July 10.



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