September 25: Nationals (84-74) @ Cardinals (93-65)

Jenifer Langosch/MLB.com

A day after nearly seeing history, the Cardinals are back on the field for an early afternoon game to close this series against Washington. St. Louis has won all five of its games against the Nationals this year, including last night’s near no-no from Michael Wacha (story here).

In the bigger picture, Wacha’s gem just put the Cardinals closer to a division title. Their magic number sits at three — with the Pirates trailing by two games and the Reds by three. If the Cardinals win and the Reds lose today, Cincinnati would be officially out of the division race. The Cardinals can’t eliminate the Pirates until, at earliest, Friday.

As for the home-field advantage race, the Braves have the Cardinals edged by a 1/2 game heading into today’s action. The Dodgers trail the Cardinals by 1 1/2 games.

With so much still in play in terms of postseason seeding, the Cardinals’ rotation plans will remain flexible for the weekend. Lance Lynn will start on Friday. That shouldn’t change. Right now, Joe Kelly and Adam Wainwright have the two weekend games. But if the Cardinals have some clarity with their playoff positioning, that pitching line up could change. Pitching Wainwright on Sunday, for instance, would preclude him from being able to start Game 1 of the Division Series or a Wild Card game. Matheny’s go-to phrase for all these situations has become: “Stay tuned.”

Left fielder Matt Holliday returns to the lineup today after missing three straight games with back tightness.

CARDINALS LINEUP:

  1. Matt Carpenter (2B)
  2. Carlos Beltran (RF)
  3. Matt Holliday (LF)
  4. Matt Adams (1B)
  5. Yadier Molina (C)
  6. Jon Jay (CF)
  7. David Freese (3B)
  8. Daniel Descalso (SS)
  9. Shelby Miller (RHP)

NATIONALS LINEUP:

  1. Denard Span (CF)
  2. Ryan Zimmerman (3B)
  3. Jayson Werth (RF)
  4. Bryce Harper (LF)
  5. Ian Desmond (SS)
  6. Adam LaRoche (1B)
  7. Wilson Ramos (C)
  8. Steve Lombardozzi (2B)
  9. Jordan zimmermann (RHP)

Follow me on Twitter: @LangoschMLB

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