Cardinals Major League Notebook: 09/12/11

The Cardinals swept Atlanta over the weekend to cut the NL wild card deficit to 4 1/2 games with 16 remaining.



For the first time this season, the Cardinals have a five-game winning streak. For the third time, they are 12 games over .500. Better yet, they gradually are creeping into playoff contention.

A three-game sweep of the Atlanta Braves, culminating with a 6-3 win Sunday in St. Louis, drew the Cardinals to 4 1/2 games (four in the loss column) behind the Braves for the wild-card berth in the National League. One problem is that the Cardinals don't play the Braves any more. Another is that the Cardinals have four games at league kingpin Philadelphia beginning next Friday.

First is a three-game trip to Pittsburgh, beginning on Monday, and the Cardinals will send out their top winner, right-hander Kyle Lohse (13-8), in the first game followed by right-hander Chris Carpenter, still the staff ace despite a 9-9 record and then improving righty Edwin Jackson.

"I feel like we are (in the race) if we keep winning," St. Louis manager Tony La Russa said. "It's exciting baseball. Guys have come through all over the roster. We got a shot."

But first baseman Albert Pujols, while enjoying the sweep of the Braves, cautioned, "It doesn't mean anything if you go and you don't have a good road trip. We're just going to continue playing and at the end of the road trip we'll see where we are."

Right-hander Jake Westbrook (12-8) allowed two runs and five hits in 5 1/3 innings for the Cardinals. Jason Motte pitched a scoreless ninth for his fifth save.

"I would have liked to have gotten deeper in the game and saved our bullpen a little bit," Westbrook said, "but that just wasn't the case."



C Yadier Molina, who had three hits, drove in three runs with a bases-loaded double off of Atlanta RHP Tim Hudson in a five-run third. "I know Tim Hudson is an aggressive pitcher," said Molina. "He tries to throw strike one every time and I was ready. I was ready to hit the fastball and he threw it."

The Cardinals have made up 4 1/2 games on division-leading Milwaukee (the Cardinals still trail the Brewers by six) and four games in wild-card leader Atlanta since Tuesday, thanks to their first five-game winning streak of the season, achieved at the expense of the Brewers and Braves. "It starts somewhere," said RF Lance Berkman, "and a five-game winning streak is a good start. Especially against a couple of the teams that you're chasing."

RH reliever Eduardo Sanchez came out of a simulated outing Saturday feeling good enough to declare himself ready to return to active duty. Sanchez, who has been out for three months with soreness inside his right shoulder, will travel with the team on their trip to Pittsburgh and Philadelphia but may not pitch. "It's going to be tough to give him significant work," manager Tony La Russa said. "He's thrown to hitters … and he feels healthy. That's enough for all of us."

1B Albert Pujols, while driving in his 89th run, also grounded into his 29th double play, three shy of the National League mark set by Houston SS Miguel Tejada in 2008. Pujols went 13-for-36 on the Cardinals' nine-game home stand to raise his average to .297.

RHP Adam Wainwright, out all season after Tommy John surgery, is expected to throw a regular bullpen session, minus his curveball, a week from now when the Cardinals return home. All signs suggest that Wainwright's progress has been good.

BY THE NUMBERS: 12 - Games over .500 for the Cardinals, At 79-67, they are at 12 over for the third time this season.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "It's still a very daunting challenge. We've entered the realm of possibility, but we've just entered it."

- RF Lance Berkman, on the Cardinals' still modest chances to make the playoffs, despite their five-game winning streak.




RHP Lance Lynn (strained left oblique) went on the 15-day disabled list Aug. 10 and transferred to the 60-day DL on Sept. 2.

RHP Eduardo Sanchez (mild right shoulder strain) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to June 13. He began a rehab assignment with Class AA Springfield on July 7 but had renewed soreness soon after and was shut down until late August or early September. He was transferred to the 60-day DL on July 31. Early in September, Sanchez began throwing bullpen sessions as if they were game situations, i.e., getting up and down. He declared himself ready to return after a simulated outing on Sept. 10. He will travel with the team to Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, but may not pitch.

RHP Adam Wainwright (Tommy John surgery in February 2011) went on the 60-day disabled list March 25. He will miss the entire 2011 season. Wainwright was getting closer to throwing a full-strength bullpen session in September, but he will not be allowed to throw his signature curveball until next year.


Mon., Sept. 12: at PIRATES: Kyle Lohse (13-8, 3.59) vs. Brad Lincoln (1-2, 3.53) 6:05 p.m. CDT (FOX Sports Midwest, KMOX Radio and Cardinals Radio Network).


<a href='' target='_new' title='La Russa, Molina confident after sweep of Braves'>Video: La Russa, Molina confident after sweep of Braves</a>
Cardinals manager Tony La Russa and Yadier Molina believe the team can push on to secure a playoff berth.

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