The St. Louis Cardinals clinched the NL Central title last night, but have their sights set on securing the best record in the league.
The Cardinals enter Saturday afternoon's matchup against the Chicago Cubs even with Atlanta in the fight for the No. 1 seed in the NL. The Braves own the tiebreaker. The team with the top seeding will host the winner of the wild card game, between the Pittsburgh Pirates and Cincinnati Reds.
Regardless, the Cardinals are assured of opening the postseason at home Thursday. They can finish no worse than the second seed among the three NL division winners.
Adam Wainwright, who pitches today and is on track to start Game 1 of the NL Division Series, has been hot of late, going 3-0 over his last four starts. The right-hander allowed three runs in seven-plus innings in a victory against Washington on Monday. A victory today would tie him with Washington's Jordan Zimmermann for the NL lead.
Wainwright is 7-6 with a 4.40 ERA in 21 games against the Cubs.
Edwin Jackson, who has one victory in his last nine starts, counters for the Cubs. Jackson was dealt the loss in Chicago's 5-2 defeat last Sunday against Atlanta. He is 2-5 with a 4.15 ERA in 11 games (10 starts) against the Cardinals.
Today's start time was moved up three hours due to the forecast for widespread rain and thunderstorms.
The champagne was flowing last night at Busch Stadium.
The Cardinals locked up their first division crown in four years with a 7-0 win. David Freese and Matt Holliday each hit solo home runs, Yadier Molina went 2-for-4 with three RBI and Lance Lynn tossed six scoreless innings.
Lynn (15-10) struck out nine, did not issue a walk and scattered three singles and a double in the rout.
"It's not a fun game to be a part of," Lynn said of avoiding being a wild card team. "You have two teams good teams that are well deserving in the playoffs in that wild card game and it's a one-game in thing. We don't want to be a part of that because we know what kind of teams have that situation to be in there. We were able to do our job and get the Central championship."
Cubs All-Star starter Travis Wood (9-12) was only scheduled to pitch one inning in an effort to save his arm while at least allowing him to reach the 200-inning milestone.
"You could tell from the beginning they had that intensity," Cubs third baseman Donnie Murphy said of the Cardinals. "They just wanted to come out get it over with today."
The Cardinals are 10-7 versus the Cubs in 2013.