September 27: Cubs (66-93) @ Cardinals (94-65)

Jenifer Langosch/MLB.com

On a day when the Cardinals can clinch the NL Central title, GM John Mozeliak provided a sobering update on injured first baseman Allen Craig. After having his sprained left foot re-evaluated on Thursday, Craig learned that he would not be cleared to play in the upcoming Division Series.

Though his foot is healing, he is only about three weeks into what is expected to be a four-to-six-week recovery. The sprain has been specifically described as a lisfranc injury, something that is much more common in football circles than baseball ones. Rest is the only true remedy, and pushing Craig back sooner than advised could risk a more severe injury — one that could affect his 2014 status or even be career-threatening. With that as the risk, the Cardinals will maintain a conservative approach.

No one has ruled out the possibility of Craig returning if the Cardinals can make a run deep into October. In the meantime, he continues to wear a soft walking boot, continues to throw, and is taking some swings off a tee.

“Obviously, it’s a difficult spot and I have to take it conservatively,” Craig said. “It’s frustrating all around, but I’m going to stay positive and be the best teammate I can and focus every day on getting back for some playoff games. You never know what opportunity is going to come up. Hopefully, I’ll be back sooner rather than later. Now is just not the time.”

***

While the Cardinals brace for Craig’s continued absence, they’ll take the field tonight knowing that they can clinch the division title with a win. A Pirates loss will also do the job, but know that the Cardinals would prefer to celebrate after winning.

With the division lead at three games (their largest lead since June 21) with three games remaining, the Cardinals have flip-flopped their weekend starters. Adam Wainwright will start on Saturday, putting him in line to pitch Game 1 of the NLDS on normal rest. Joe Kelly will slot in to pitch Sunday. With Game 2 of the NLDS scheduled for next Friday, any of the Cardinals starters would be available to take that spot on normal or extra rest.

Other things to keep an eye on outside of Busch Stadium tonight:

  • The Cardinals and Braves enter the day tied for the NL’s best record. Whichever team ends up with that best record will host the Wild Card winner in the NLDS. If the Cards-Braves tie, the Braves will get the top seed because they beat Cardinals, 4-3, in the season series.
  • The Dodgers are three games behind the Cardinals in the best-record race. That means with one more Dodgers loss OR one Cardinals win, the Cardinals clinch home-field advantage in at least the NLDS.

***

And lastly, don’t be alarmed when lefty Travis Wood goes just one inning in his start for the Cubs tonight. The Cubs want to get him the 200-inning milestone and then protect his arm by not letting him pitch any deeper.

***

CARDINALS LINEUP:

  1. Matt Carpenter (2B)
  2. Carlos Beltran (RF)
  3. Matt Holliday (LF)
  4. Matt Adams (1B)
  5. Yadier Molina (C)
  6. David Freese (3B)
  7. Jon Jay (CF)
  8. Pete Kozma (SS)
  9. Lance Lynn (RHP)

CUBS LINEUP:

  1. Starlin Castro (CC)
  2. Donnie Murphy (3B)
  3. Anthony Rizzo (1B)
  4. Dioner Navarro (C)
  5. Nate Schierholtz (RF)
  6. Ryan Sweeney (CF)
  7. Brian Bogusevic (LF)
  8. Darwin Barney (2B)
  9. Travis Wood (LHP)

Follow me on Twitter: @LangoschMLB

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