Although it seemed a foregone conclusion over the past week, the St. Louis Cardinals are still trying to wrap up an elusive NL Central title heading into Game 162.
The stakes could be quite high Sunday for the Cardinals, who will take their best shot by sending Adam Wainwright to the mound against the Arizona Diamondbacks.As Wainwright looks to win a career-best sixth straight start, the Cardinals hope to finally clinch a second straight division crown."We're up one with one to go with our ace on the mound," pitcher Lance Lynn said, "so we're in a good spot."St. Louis (89-72) held a 3 1/2-game lead over Pittsburgh (88-73) last Saturday, but that advantage has dwindled to one while the club has dropped four of six.With an opportunity to close things out Saturday after the Pirates lost in Cincinnati, the Cardinals scattered seven hits and went 1 for 5 with runners in scoring position in a 5-2 defeat at Chase Field.And now they could be without Matt Holliday after the club's RBI leader left the contest with flu-like symptoms.St. Louis is already assured a fourth straight playoff appearance, but needs a victory or Pittsburgh loss to claim the Central crown and avoid a one-game playoff at home Monday. The Pirates' game could be over and the picture clearer by Wainwright's first pitch."We've got Game 162," manager Mike Matheny said. "I think that's how the schedule makers draw it up. It's supposed to mean something and it does for us."The Cardinals should be in good hands behind their All-Star right-hander as he looks to become the club's first 21-game winner since Chris Carpenter in 2005.Wainwright (20-9, 2.38 ERA) won his fifth consecutive start with Monday's 8-0 victory over the Chicago Cubs. He has tossed 21 consecutive scoreless innings after allowing three hits with eight strikeouts over seven at Wrigley Field.The NL Cy Young candidate is 6-3 with a 2.15 ERA in nine career starts against the MLB-worst Diamondbacks (64-97). In his only meeting this season, he threw a one-hitter with nine strikeouts in a 5-0 home win May 20.Mark Trumbo has a home run in three career at-bats versus Wainwright. He's also 7 for 19 with three homers in five games against the Cardinals after posting his second multi-homer game in six days Saturday.Trumbo, who missed 11 weeks due to a broken foot, has five home runs and 11 RBIs in his last six games."It's been an extremely tough year," he said. "But if you can end on a high note and go into the offseason with a little more confidence and frame of mind, you are that much better for it."Josh Collmenter (11-8, 3.57) has limited opponents to two runs or fewer in his last six starts, going 3-1 with a 1.29 ERA since Aug. 22. He allowed two runs and five hits over 6 1/3 innings in a 6-2 win at Minnesota on Monday.The right-hander has gone 4-3 with a 1.96 ERA in his last 10 starts at Chase Field. He'll make his first career start against the Cardinals after he went 2-0 with an 0.84 ERA in three relief appearances last season.Jhonny Peralta had a single and an RBI Saturday, leaving him with a .400 average to go with three homers and 13 RBIs in 11 career meetings with the Diamondbacks.