The Cardinals, who reclaimed first place in the National League Central last weekend and maintained their edge in the opener against Milwaukee, enter Wednesday's game against the Brewers at Busch Stadium with a favorable schedule ahead in a tight NL Central race.
St. Louis closes the season with 15 of its final 18 games against opponents with sub-.500 records, including five against the Brewers. The final 18 games also include 11 at Busch Stadium, where the Cardinals are 45-25 this season.
The Cardinals enter Wednesday with a one-game lead on the Pirates and a three-game lead on the Reds in the NL Central, but manager Mike Matheny said his team's focus is on the game at hand, not avoiding the Wild Card.
"It's not like we get together and discuss that," said Matheny, whose team is 11-3 against the Brewers this season. "When we discuss things, it's about what we got to do right here and now, and right here and now we need to play a real good game against the Brewers and put together a good effort. That stuff, we'll deal with it later. We want to win as many games as we can win. We want to win a championship, we want to win our division. Those are things that we want to do."
The Cardinals will start with trying to win the three-game series as Lance Lynn opposes Brewers right-hander Marco Estrada.
They will take the field with American flag patches on their caps, as Major League Baseball announced Tuesday all uniformed personnel will wear them as baseball pays tribute to those who lost their lives on Sept. 11, 2001. There will be special bases and lineup cards used at all games, and the Cardinals will have a pregame ceremony during which there will be a moment of remembrance.
Additionally, the Cardinals are offering active and retired military, as well as emergency first responders, the opportunity to receive six free tickets on Wednesday and Thursday. Visit cardinals.com/heroes for more information or to request the complimentary tickets.
Lynn (13-10) is winless in his last six starts and has not held an opponent to less than four earned runs in his last five. With another shaky outing, the 26-year-old right-hander could find himself on the outside looking in at the Cardinals' rotation.
"There's no secret formula here," Matheny said. "He's shown bits of it every single time he's been out here. How do you replicate that? And that's not something that we can draw up. [It's] just kind of a mental approach and the discipline of having a consistent approach. So hopefully he can put that together. We know he's done it. He's done it in the past, and I believe he'll continue to do it for a long career. We just need him to do it right now."
Brewers: Estrada not worried about extended time off
Estrada's start will be his first since Aug. 31 due to an off-day and some rotation shuffling that forced him to wait 11 days between outings.
The right-hander said he has stuck to his normal routine, though, and should not be affected by the long layoff.
"I took the normal four days in between [starts]," said Estrada during the team's weekend trip to Chicago. "I've done the same routine and now I've started over [with the same four-day routine]. So I've basically done the same thing, except I haven't pitched in between. As long as you're not out here just sitting around, not doing your work, you've got nothing to worry about. I've been working hard and keeping everything the same, so I think I'll be fine."
Roenicke echoed Estrada's point on Saturday.
"You're already in great shape [and] you've pitched through the season," Roenicke said. "You should come back [from a longer layoff] feeling refreshed. Your arm should feel good, you throw two or three bullpens in between, and it should work out."
Cardinals: Matheny sees positive signs from Lynn
Despite Lynn's recent struggles, Matheny said Tuesday that the right-hander's last start offered some positive signs.
"We saw good stuff," Matheny said. "If you're looking, right now, this time of the year, people want to start thinking about are they tired, has he been overused, what's the deal here? And I haven't seen that in his stuff, stuff is normally the indicator. You can start to see when a guy gets tired, he's consistently all over the place and he doesn't have the life and the velocity. None of those have been the case.
"He's got the good stuff that hitters are having a tough time with. It's just replicating that. And we've seen it also where he has it, then it's not there, so you think maybe he hit a wall, and then you see about three more innings of him being absolutely nasty. So it doesn't start to lean toward mechanical, it doesn't start to lean toward fatigue. It leads toward execution, and that's the name of this game."
• The Cardinals have won 13 of their last 18 games at home against the Brewers and have outscored the Milwaukee, 37-24, in the last seven at Busch Stadium.
Kevin Massoth is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.