When the Cardinals begin a three-game series in Cincinnati on Tuesday, those are the issues that will face manager Tony La Russa. He'll be looking for a day or two here or there for some of his key players, while also hoping to secure home-field advantage and trying not to let his team get stagnant.
On Sunday, it was a bit simpler. Even following the clinching celebration on Saturday night, La Russa felt an obligation to put out the most representative lineup that he could. That's because the Rockies are in a playoff race of their own.
"I think there's probably a guy or two who would not have played" if Sunday's game had not been against a contender, La Russa said. "We're still trying to win the games, and we're still trying to get home field, but I think there are a couple guys that were pushed in there."
Now in Cincinnati, he'll look for those days. Some decisions will be made for him, though. Catcher Yadier Molina is still recovering from a bruised left knee and may be out until later in the series. And outfielder Matt Holliday missed Sunday's game due to illness.
STL: RHP Joel Pineiro (15-11, 3.24 ERA)
Pineiro has two starts left, and he needs two more wins for a career high. It would be a sweet accomplishment at age 31 for Pineiro, who has recast himself as a sinkerballing ground-ball-getter in his 10th big league season. He's on track to start Game 3 of the postseason, which might have been hard to envision for anyone but Pineiro himself back in Spring Training.
CIN: RHP Homer Bailey (6-5, 5.02 ERA)
Bailey didn't have his best stuff during a 12-2 win over the Pirates, but he was more than good enough to work six quality innings. He allowed four hits and three walks. Lacking a putaway pitch, he did not strike anyone out. Because he lacked zip on his fastball, Bailey and catcher Corky Miller resorted to throwing his offspeed stuff more, namely the curveball. It worked well. Over his last seven starts, Bailey is 4-1 with a 1.99 ERA.
Ryan Ludwick is 3-for-8 against Bailey with two doubles and a home run. ... Ramon Hernandez is 9-for-29 (.310) against Pineiro with three extra-base hits. ... The Cardinals are 7-6 against the Reds this year, their worst mark against any division foe.
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Official game notes
Wednesday: Cardinals (John Smoltz, 3-7, 5.96) at Reds (Bronson Arroyo, 14-13, 3.95), 6:10 p.m. CT
Thursday: Cardinals (Chris Carpenter, 16-4, 2.30) at Reds (Matt Maloney, 2-4, 4.87), 11:35 a.m. CT
Friday: Cardinals (Adam Wainwright, 19-8, 2.58) vs. Brewers (Braden Looper, 13-7, 5.10), 7:15 p.m. CT