WASHINGTON -- While the Cardinals will have few complaints if they are able to dispose of the Nationals on Friday and advance to the National League Championship Series for the second straight season, the club will look back on Game 4 as a missed opportunity to earn that NLCS invite a day early.
The Cards' rotation could have clearly benefited from a quicker end to the series. With the Nationals forcing a Game 5, the Cardinals have no choice but to go back to Game 1 starter Adam Wainwright on Friday. That means that if the Redbirds take the series, Wainwright would not be able to pitch in the NLCS until Game 3, at the earliest.
The way the Cardinals aligned their rotation for the NL Division Series also precludes Chris Carpenter and Kyle Lohse from being available in Game 1 of the NLCS. As a result, the Cards would have to turn to Lance Lynn, Shelby Miller or Joe Kelly to take the ball in San Francisco.
Needing to keep one of the three ready as a potential Game 1 starter will affect how manager Mike Matheny utilizes his relievers in Friday's Game 5.