Cards ready for big series with Rockies

Cards set for big series with Rockies

HOUSTON -- When the Cardinals take the field on Friday night at Coors Field, they'll do so with the National League Central title one win away.

They be vying for the division crown in front of a raucous crowd, against a team in its own high-stakes battle. They know that their three-game series against the Rockies will, in some ways, resemble playoff baseball.

And in fact, they might well be back at the same ballpark, against the same opponent, in two weeks. If the Rockies win the NL Wild Card, and the Cardinals finish with a better record than the Phillies, St. Louis would face Colorado in the Division Series. That possibility is not lost on the Redbirds.

It's definitely not lost on the two managers, who will send pretty good facsimiles of their playoff rotations to the mound over the weekend. Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright, the Cards' presumptive Game 1 and Game 2 playoff starters, will pitch Friday and Saturday. And all three Rockies starters for the weekend -- Aaron Cook, Ubaldo Jimenez and Jorge De La Rosa -- will likely start in October if Colorado gets there.

"It's very interesting," said infielder Skip Schumaker. "We're throwing our best at them. They're starting Cook, which is their best in my opinion. So I think both sides are looking forward to the series. They're still trying to clinch a playoff berth, and we might be, too. So I think it's going to be kind of a playoff-type atmosphere. It should be fun."

Schumaker comes into the series riding quite a hot streak, even though he was 0-for-3 with a walk in Wednesday's series finale in Houston. He has seven multihit games since Sept. 13.

He'll be trying to spur an offense that has run hot and cold. The Cardinals scored 18 runs in their first two games in Houston before being shut out in the third meeting. They'll need to swing the bats well, and pitch well, going up against the front of the Colorado rotation. The Rockies swept the Cardinals in St. Louis earlier this year.

"I always like going to that park," Wainwright said. "Even pitching there -- I just think it's a neat experience. I liked sitting down in that bullpen when I was in the bullpen. It's like you're in the forest. I always like going there."

Pitching matchup
STL: RHP Chris Carpenter (16-4, 2.34 ERA)
Carpenter won't take anything off over his final two starts, but he's pretty much tuning up at this point. He's on schedule to start the Cardinals' playoff opener, so the most important things are to stay sharp and to stay healthy. There's little question about the first, as he pitched eight shutout innings his last time out. And so far, there's been no question about the second since May. He's also in the running for what would be his second Cy Young Award.

COL: RHP Aaron Cook (10-6, 4.47 ERA)
It'll be Cook's first appearance since Aug. 21, when he left a start against the Giants early with soreness in his right shoulder. Manager Jim Tracy said Cook will be watched closely and kept at a pitch count of 60-70. Tracy said there is also a chance right-hander Jose Contreras (1-0, 1.86 ERA in two starts with the Rockies) can pitch in relief. Cook will be looking to re-establish himself as a starter for the Rockies' likely playoff trip.

Tidbits
Friday will be Matt Holliday's first game as a visitor at Coors Field. He was traded from Colorado to Oakland over the winter, and then to St. Louis in July. ... Rick Ankiel is 4-for-5 with two home runs against Cook. ... Garrett Atkins is 0-for-12 against Carpenter. ... Ryan Ludwick is 10-for-20 with six extra-base hits in his career at Coors Field. ... Todd Helton is 2-for-11 with five strikeouts and no extra-base hits against Dennys Reyes, and 1-for-11 with a double against Trever Miller.

Tickets
 Buy tickets now to catch the game in person.

On the Internet
 MLB.TV
 Gameday Audio
•  Gameday
•  Official game notes

On television
• FS-M HD

On radio
• KTRS 550

Up next
• Saturday: Cardinals (Adam Wainwright, 18-8, 2.59) at Rockies (Ubaldo Jimenez, 14-11, 3.47), 7:10 p.m. CT
• Sunday: Cardinals (Kyle Lohse, 6-8, 4.81) at Rockies (Jorge De La Rosa, 15-9, 4.42), 2:10 p.m. CT
• Monday: Off-day

Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.