ST. LOUIS – Even though St. Louis clinched the National League Central title Friday night, the Cardinals showed no signs of letting up on Saturday as the Redbirds beat Chicago 6-2. With the win, St. Louis hangs onto an outside chance of earning home field advantage throughout the playoffs.
St. Louis (96-65) jumped on the Cubs' starting pitcher in the first inning for the second straight day, collecting four hits and a pair of runs. Matt Holliday had the big hit, blasting his 22nd home run of the season, a two-run shot. The hit also increased the Cardinal left fielder's batting average to .300 for the season.
"He has just been killing it all month long and for a couple of months now," Cardinals starting pitcher Adam Wainwright said of Matt Holliday. "He ended the year right there – I don't know, maybe he has one more game, but .300 right now with 20-something homers and almost 100 RBIs, that is a Hollidayish kind of year."
Cardinals' skipper Mike Matheny would not say whether Holliday would play in the Cardinals regular season finale or not.
"That is another thing we will figure out (Sunday)," Matheny said. "He has worked real hard to get (to .300)."
The Cardinals added onto the lead in the third inning when the Redbirds batted around. After Jon Jay flew out to open the inning, Holliday drew a walk and was replaced on the base path by Shane Robinson. Matt Adams followed with another walk before Yadier Molina drilled his 44th double to right center to drive in Robinson and Adams.
The two RBIs gave the Cardinals' catcher 80 runs batted in for the season.
Following a pop fly for the second out, Pete Kozma hit a laser into left center that bounced into the Cardinals' bullpen for an RBI ground rule double. The Cubs walked Adron Chambers intentionally before Wainwright helped his own cause with an RBI single. The RBI tied Wainwright's career-high of six set back in 2007 and equaled in 2008 and again in 2010.
Wainwright, who finished with a .211 batting average for the season, joked about wanting to keep his average above .200.
"I have been swinging better," Wainwright said. "I am taking some pride in my hitting."
On the mound, Wainwright was pulled after retiring the first batter of the sixth inning. The Cardinals' ace walked off the mound to a standing ovation from the 42,520 fans at Busch Stadium.
"It was good to get out there and get some good work in and to get the win," Wainwright said. "That was the perfect way for me (to exit the game) right there. That is exactly what we had in plan, five innings and hopefully the offense does a great job, which they did today. … I also got out of there in time to get some good rest."
Had Wainwright not started, he would have had 10 days between appearances as Matheny said the right hander will start game one of the playoffs on Thursday.
"I just wanted something to keep me sharp," Wainwright said. "It was important that we win the game and we are still fighting for that number one seed and home field advantage, so we wanted to win the game, but really, I wanted to stay sharp. Ten days off is too much."
Wainwright finished the afternoon allowing just two hits and one walk while striking out five. For the season, Wainwright (19-9) punched out a career-high 219 batters while throwing a career-high 242.2 innings.
"I was sharp (Saturday) and my stuff was acting right," Wainwright said. "It is good momentum heading into the postseason."
Wainwright took a lot of pride in finishing with a sub-3.00 ERA and leading the league in innings pitched.
"That was important for me," Wainwright said. "I wanted to (finish below 3.00). There is nothing to shake your head at about having a low threes ERA, but I felt like I need to be in the twos.
"When I look back and I have 19 wins with an ERA under three, I think I did my job as a starting pitcher for the most part," Wainwright said. "What I am most proud about is keeping my team deep into games and throwing a lot of innings."
Wainwright's first win of the 2014 season will be his 100th career win.
By the sixth inning, the Cardinals had replaced six of their starters. Only Matt Adams, Kozma, and Chambers played the whole game.
After being shut out Friday, the Cubs (66-95) finally scored when Anthony Rizzo led off the top of the ninth with a solo blast off Edward Mujica. Two doubles and a ground out later and Mujica was pulled with the Cardinals clinging to a 6-2.
"It was hard (to have to pull Mujica)," Matheny said. "That was not what we were wanting to do tonight, but you have to make adjustments."
Matheny went to Randy Choate first. But, Choate lasted just one batter, allowing an infield single. That forced Matheny to bring in Seth Maness who got a 6-4-3 double play to end the game.
The victory was the Cardinals 53rd win at home this season, a new single season record for Busch Stadium III. The Cardinals and Cubs will wrap up the regular season this afternoon when Jake Westbrook and the Cardinals face Jeff Samardzija of the Cubs at 1:15 p.m.
NOTES: Audry Perez had his first MLB at bat in the seventh inning and struck out. … Pete Kozma's double in the third was his 20th of the season. He is one of nine Cardinal hitters to record 20-plus doubles this year. … With his two RBIs in the third, Yadier Molina became the fourth Cardinal to tally 80 or more runs batted in this season. Matt Carpenter needs two RBIs to make that number five. … Carpenter, who was hitless Saturday, needs one hit to record 200 on the season. ... By reaching a batting of .300, the Cardinals have four regulars batting .300 or better. Carlos Beltran is batting .297 and would need to go 3-for-3 Sunday to reach a .300 batting average.