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NYM@STL: Wainwright helps own cause with a solo homer

Surely, each contest the rest of the way carries extreme significance for teams in the thick of playoff positioning. These next five games for the Cardinals, however, hold the utmost importance.

St. Louis, which lost to the Cubs, 5-4, on Friday afternoon, will play two more against their National League Central foes before traveling to Houston for a three-game set against the bottom-feeding Astros.

Following the stretch of winnable tilts, the Cardinals will host the Nationals and Reds, a pair of teams that clinched playoff berths on Thursday. If the Cardinals hope to join them, claiming the wins they're expected to is the first step. They have a horde of teams on their tail in pursuit of the second NL Wild Card slot.

"We're really trying to just enjoy each one and realize how much we're putting on each game as a club," manager Mike Matheny said. "[We're] not looking forward to anything but the next one. I think the guys are staying pretty focused with that."

The Cubs certainly aren't backing down from the challenge of spoiling St. Louis' postseason dreams.

"It is a time to play against one of the better teams again, and hopefully you do knock them further down in the standings or knock them out of the Wild Card if the Brewers keep it up," said Cubs skipper Dale Sveum.

On Saturday, the Cardinals will send right-hander Adam Wainwright (13-13, 3.97 ERA) to the mound. His last two starts have alleviated concerns that he might be fatigued in his first full season since undergoing Tommy John surgery.

Wainwright has yielded four runs in 12 innings over his last two outings, an improvement upon his previous two starts, when he pitched a total of 7 2/3 frames.

Cardinals: Westbrook waits a day
Jake Westbrook felt minor discomfort in his right side after a bullpen session on Wednesday, so he will throw off the mound on Saturday, a day later than originally anticipated.

Westbrook, who has missed two starts because of a right oblique strain, threw on flat ground on Friday. He could pitch in the upcoming series against the Astros.

• With Jason Motte unavailable after saving four games in a row, Fernando Salas served as the closer on Friday and served up a game-tying homer in the ninth inning to Darwin Barney. Matheny said prior to Friday's affair that he was concerned with Motte's workload.

• Matheny gave third baseman David Freese a bit of rest on Friday. Freese wasn't in the starting lineup, although he walked in a pinch-hit appearance.

Cubs: Wood to take the hill
Travis Wood will toe the rubber for the Cubs on Saturday. Over his last 10 starts, he has compiled a 3.34 ERA, despite just a 2-6 record to show for.

During the stretch, Wood has had just one outing in which he surrendered more than three earned runs.

Worth noting
• Motte became the first Cardinals closer with saves in four consecutive games since Lee Smith recorded a save in five straight contests in June 1993.

• Cubs outfielder Alfonso Soriano tied his career high when he tallied his 104th RBI of the season on Friday.

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