The Cardinals (90-66) may have clinched the division title and a spot in the playoffs that comes with it. But there is still a lot to play for as teams jockey for home field advantage.
Cincinnati may be mired in fourth place with a 74-82 record. But the Reds have won seven of their last 10 games and are trying to get as close to .500 as possible to set the tone for next season.
St. Louis will send starter Joel Pineiro (15-11, 3.24) to the hill in game one against the unfortunately monikered Homer Bailey. Bailey is 65 with a 5.02 ERA for the season. But he has been hot lately. Over the course of the last month he is 2-1 with a 2.67 ERA in five starts. Pineiro's win in his most recent start was his first since Sept. 1. But the Cardinals scored only a combined seven runs in the three games he pitched between wins that include a 1-0 loss to Atlanta on Sept. 11.
Cardinals starter Joel Pineiro Pineiro could match his career high in wins at 16 with a victory in the opener against the Reds. AP photo.
In game two, John Smoltz (3-7, 5.96) will face Bronson Arroyo (14-13, 3.95). Smoltz is 1-2 with a 3.18 ERA in his time in St. Louis and has seemed to get stronger with each start -- although his offensive support doesn't seem very strong at all. This month he lost 4-3 to Milwaukee, got no decision in a 4-3 win over Milwaukee, got no decision in a 3-2 loss to the Cubs and lost to the Astros 3-0. Arroyo beat the Pirates in his last start Thursday and has made 12 quality starts in a row.
Chris Carpenter (16-4, 2.30) will start the finale against Matt Maloney (2-4, 4.87). Carpenter was thought to be the favorite for the Cy Young Award -- at least in St. Louis circles -- until teammate Adam Wainwright turned in stellar performance in his last outing at Colorado. Now Carpenter is probably just going to try to iron out wrinkles in his curveball delivery as he tunes up for game one of the NLDS. It's Maloney's first start of his career against the Cardinals, which usually spells trouble. He's a sinker/curveball pitcher who doesn't strike out too many and walks even less.
Speaking of a lack of offense, Cardinals slugger Albert Pujols once looked like a shoe-in to hit 50 homers for the first time in his career. But he hasn't hit one over the boards since his two-dinger day against the Brewers on Sept. 9 -- a span of almost three weeks.