This isn't the preferred way to move closer to a playoff berth, but the Atlanta Braves will take it, holding ground in the National League Wild Card race following Monday's 4-2 loss to the Phillies, because the Cardinals lost to the last-place Astros, 5-4, in 10 innings. The Braves lead the Cards by one game with two to play. They can clinch the NL's final playoff spot Tuesday with a victory over the Phillies and another Cardinals loss.
The Braves were saddled with a season-ending series at home against the best team in baseball, while the Cardinals had to travel for three against the worst team in baseball. Though the result wasn't there Monday, veteran third baseman Chipper Jones isn't making excuses if the Braves can't hold the lead this late in the season.
"I like being at home regardless," Jones said. "We play an unbalanced schedule. What are you going to do? We're playing the best team in the National League. They're playing the worst. That's just the way it all fell. There's nothing we can do about it. In the end, it's not going to tell me one way or the other why we won or why we lost. We didn't play well coming down the stretch.
"We've had more than enough opportunities to walk off that field with W's in the last three weeks. We would have had this thing sewn up by now. We didn't close it out. We didn't get the big hit, we didn't make a big pitch, we didn't get the big out, we didn't make the big play. We have nobody to blame but ourselves for being in this present situation. That being said, we hold our destiny in our own hands."
The Phillies have had destiny on their minds ever since Cliff Lee signed last winter and helped form what many consider one of the baseball's all-time best rotations.
They became the first team in baseball this season to reach 100 wins, and are one win shy of tying the franchise record for most regular-season wins, set in 1976 and '77. They also became the first NL team to reach 100 wins since the 2005 Cardinals.
Phillies: Postseason roster likely to include 11 pitchers
The Phillies still have a few more days to finalize their 25-man postseason roster, but it appears they're leaning toward carrying 11 pitchers.
Here's a projected roster:
-- Catchers: Carlos Ruiz and Brian Schneider.
-- Infielders: Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Placido Polanco, Jimmy Rollins, Ross Gload, Wilson Valdez and Michael Martinez.
-- Outfielders: Raul Ibanez, Shane Victorino, Hunter Pence, John Mayberry Jr. and Ben Francisco.
-- Pitchers: Roy Halladay, Lee, Cole Hamels, Roy Oswalt, Vance Worley, Ryan Madson, Brad Lidge, Antonio Bastardo, Mike Stutes and Kyle Kendrick, with David Herndon or Joe Blanton possibly in the running for the final spot.
The Phillies open the National League Division Series on Saturday at Citizens Bank Park.
On Tuesday, Oswalt will make his final start before the postseason. He is expected to pitch Game 4 of the NLDS, if necessary.
Braves: Chipper, McCann playing through injuries
Jones and Brian McCann are going all in with two games remaining and a one-game lead in the NL Wild Card race.
Since returning from missing three weeks with a strained left oblique muscle, McCann has endured one of the worst stretches of his career. His .174 batting average in that span ranks as the lowest mark of any qualified Major League player.
Jones' right knee has bothered him throughout the year, and he has seen minimal improvement since having a torn meniscus repaired via an arthroscopic surgical procedure in July.
"I said the last time we were here, I don't want to hear, 'I'm hurting,' or 'I'm tired,'" Jones said. "It's all hands on deck from now until the end of the season. There's no excuses. Go out and do your job."
Braves right-handed reliever Peter Moylan will undergo right shoulder surgery to clean some damage around his torn labrum and torn rotator cuff. Rehab is expected to last four to six months following the surgical procedure, which has not yet been scheduled.
The Braves will send Derek Lowe to the mound Tuesday against the Phillies. Lowe has a 4.92 ERA in 33 starts this season. He allowed seven runs (five earned) over five innings in his last start against the Phillies on Sept. 5.
Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman is closing in on a potential NL Rookie of the Year Award. He ranks first among NL rookies in batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, hits, home runs and RBIs.