The St. Louis Cardinals sit tied atop the hottest division race in baseball, and there is no pitcher they trust more in that situation than veteran ace Adam Wainwright. Coming off a dominant outing Saturday in which he tossed seven scoreless innings in a win over Pittsburgh, Wainwright will start the series opener against Seattle on Friday at Busch Stadium.
The Cardinals won last year's inaugural National League Wild Card game to advance to the Division Series, but this time around, they are locked in on capturing a division title. A loss to the Brewers on Thursday dropped them back into a tie with the Pirates for first in the NL Central.
"We were glad to get that last spot last year, that was something we needed to do," Wainwright said. "But this year, I think we're in a position where we can go out and win the division and not have to worry about our whole season coming down to one game.
"All throughout the season we have to look at it one game at a time. It's cliché but that's exactly how we're looking at it. You start getting too far ahead of yourself, winning divisions, you find it real hard to clinch."
Fittingly, Wainwright pitched -- and won -- the series opener in 2010, the last time the Cardinals met the Mariners. But this time around, the Cardinals' offense will be facing one of the American League's top arms in Cy Young Award contender Hisashi Iwakuma (12-6, 2.97 ERA).
The Mariners are being a bit wary of Iwakuma's innings, as he is just five away from his career high of 201 2/3 set in Japan in 2008.
"One of my goals was to stay healthy through the long course of the season and stay in the rotation the whole year," Iwakuma said through translator Antony Suzuki. "We're coming very close to that, and that's a good sign for me."
Iwakuma has struggled a bit against NL clubs in his career. In eight appearances, he has posted a 1-1 record with 6.04 ERA, although he has never faced the Cardinals.
Mariners: Ryan leaves legacy in Seattle
Former Cardinals shortstop Brendan Ryan will not get a chance to face his old team Friday. That is because the Mariners are now a former club of his as well.
The Mariners sent Ryan to the Yankees late Tuesday night in exchange for a player to be named later. Ryan left a legacy in Seattle predicated on his defense and leadership.
"He was a great teammate, and he even said, 'Hey, keep working on the stuff we've been talking about,' and that's awesome," current Mariners shortstop Brad Miller said. "That really is the sign of a pretty good teammate."
Cardinals: Molinas, Rosenthal likely to return
Catcher Yadier Molina, assistant hitting coach Bengie Molina and reliever Trevor Rosenthal all were away from the team on Thursday as they dealt with personal matters, but the Cardinals are optimistic they will be back on Friday.
The Molina brothers have missed the past two games to be with their mother, Gladys, who is recovering from a surgical procedure at a St. Louis-area hospital. She was in stable condition on Thursday, according to MDR Sports Management, which represents Yadier Molina.
Rosenthal and his wife, Lindsey, were awaiting the arrival of their first child. Lindsay was induced into labor on Wednesday night and was still in labor on Thursday, according to manager Mike Matheny.
• The Cardinals have won six of nine all-time meetings between the two clubs, including five of six at home.
• Mariners outfielder Raul Ibanez has three hits and two walks in nine plate appearances against Wainwright.
• Kendrys Morales' solo homer against Houston on Wednesday was the 100th of his career.