(Sports Network) - Forgive the Washington Nationals if they arrive in St.
Louis a little envious of the Cardinals.
After all, while the Cardinals have already clinched a playoff spot, the
Nationals are facing a giant uphill battle to get into the postseason.
Washington looks to keep its fleeting hopes alive on Monday night in the first
of three consecutive meetings with St. Louis.
The Nationals split a day-night doubleheader with the Miami Marlins on Sunday.
Their loss in the first game actually clinched the Cards' playoff berth and a
5-4 win in the nightcap leaves the Nats five games back of the Cincinnati Reds
and Pittsburgh Pirates for the two NL wild card spots.
Washington has six games left to play, three versus St. Louis and three in
"I'm not good at math, but I'm good enough to know that losing makes it
tougher," Nats third baseman Ryan Zimmerman said. "But you've just got to keep
playing and see what happens. We put ourselves in this situation. We've just
got to keep trying to finish strong."
Washington's victory in the second game gave Davey Johnson a positive sendoff
in his last regular season contest home contest as manager. Johnson plans to
retire at season's end, but is convinced the club still has a chance at
"We aren't finished. I take nothing for granted," Johnson said. "I still think
we've got a good shot."
The Cardinals will be headed to the postseason for a third straight year, but
are still gunning for their first NL Central title since 2009, though the club
did win the World Series in 2011 as a wild card club.
Still, the Cards would like to avoid the Oct. 1 wild card game and have a two-
game edge on the Reds and Pirates for first place in the division. That leaves
St. Louis with a magic number of five to wrap up the NL Central title with six
home games left to play.
St. Louis, which hosts the Chicago Cubs to close the regular season, was
denied a three-game sweep of Milwaukee with Sunday night's 6-4 loss. The Cards
committed three errors in the game.
"We made many mistakes and were lucky to have been that close," Cardinals
manager Mike Matheny said.
The Cards may need some more luck as they try to hand Tanner Roark the first
loss of his Major League career.
Roark has made 12 appearances with the Nationals this season, each of the last
three starts. He is 7-0 with a 1.08 earned run average to begin his career and
has a 0.95 ERA in his three starts.
All of those have come in August and he hurled his second scoreless outing of
the month on Tuesday versus Atlanta. The right-handed Roark contributed seven
innings of two-hit ball to the 4-0 win, walking one and striking out six over
a career-high 101 pitches.
"What a great game from Roark," said WJohnson. "He was completely in command
the entire time he was up there. His pitch count got kind of high there, so
that's why I took him out. He earned that win today."
The 26-year-old faces the Cardinals for the first time and goes up against
their ace in Adam Wainwright.
The right-handed Wainwright is 17-9 with a 2.98 ERA in 32 starts this year,
ranking second in the NL in wins and innings pitched (229 1/3) while tying for
second with 209 strikeouts.
Wainwright has given up four runs over his last three outings and three of
those came in Wednesday's 4-3 win over Colorado. Wainwright also gave up 10
hits and fanned eight while notching three hits and a pair of RBI at the
The 32-year-old bested Washington on the road on April 23, hurling 8 1/3
scoreless innings with nine strikeouts. He is 5-3 with a 3.09 ERA in this
The Cards swept that three-game April set.
The Sports Network