The St. Louis Cardinals and Cincinnati Reds could very well be the two teams taking the field for the NL wild-card game on Oct. 1.
For now, they'll meet one more time in the regular season on Thursday night as St. Louis tries to salvage a series split in Cincinnati.
The slumping Cardinals (80-59) needed two extra-inning homers from Matt Adams to secure a 5-4 victory in 16 innings on Wednesday. It was just their second victory in seven games, helping to preserve second place in the NL Central by 2 1/2 games in front of the Reds (78-62).
Both teams are in favorable positions to at least achieve berths in the wild-card game with Washington - the next-closest team in the standings - 6 1/2 games back of Cincinnati.
"That was just a character win," manager Mike Matheny said. "The guys just kept grinding, not giving up or giving in. The job the young bullpen did holding them down was impressive. That's one of those wins you don't forget."
The Reds are unlikely to forget about it either, but for the wrong reasons as it marks one of their biggest disappointments of the season.
"For sure,' starter Bronson Arroyo said. "Definitely. When you play that many innings and have a couple of runners in scoring position ...'
Adams had been 0 for his last 17 before homering in the 14th inning. St. Louis squandered that lead when pinch-runner Billy Hamilton again stole a base and scored on a single in the bottom of the inning, but Adams went deep again two frames later, his 11th of the year.
The Cardinals hadn't homered in seven consecutive games, and are batting .185 over their last seven contests with 15 runs. The slump likely won't be helped by the loss of Allen Craig, who is being sent to St. Louis to be re-evaluated after leaving in the fourth inning Wednesday with a sprained left foot. X-rays were inconclusive for Craig, who is batting .357 with a .438 on-base percentage over his last 16 contests.
"Any time you're sending Allen Craig away it's not good news," Matheny said.
St. Louis' offense faces Tony Cingrani (6-3, 2.76 ERA), who makes his first start since a strained lower back limited him to 3 2-3 innings versus Arizona on Aug. 20. Greg Reynolds, who filled in for Cingrani for two starts, is available as a long reliever if Cingrani can't pitch deep into the game.
"He said he feels good, so we'll see," manager Dusty Baker told the team's website. "That's the same day that Reynolds is scheduled to pitch, so we'll see as far as he can go and how he feels. (We) talked to Reynolds about possibly piggybacking with Cingrani."
Cingrani had been rolling, going 3-2 with a 1.91 ERA in his last seven outings including the game against the Diamondbacks. He recorded 40 strikeouts over 37 2-3 innings in those contests while allowing 22 hits.
Meanwhile, Lance Lynn (13-9, 4.29) comes off one of the worst outings of his career after allowing seven runs and 10 hits over four innings of a 7-1 loss at Pittsburgh on Saturday. Lynn has found himself off track lately, going 0-4 with a 6.83 ERA over his last five games.
Facing the Reds again could prove helpful considering he is 3-0 with a 2.67 ERA in four earlier matchups this season.
Jay Bruce is 5 for 12 lifetime off Lynn, though he, Joey Votto and Chris Heisey were a combined 0 for 19 on Wednesday.
The Associated Press News Service
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