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09/28/10 8:56 PM ET

Young arms clash in series finale

For the third time in four seasons, the Cardinals will not be participating in the postseason.

St. Louis was officially eliminated on Tuesday night, as the Reds clinched the National League Central on Jay Bruce's ninth-inning walk-off homer. It's the Reds' first trip to the playoffs in 15 years. The last time the Cardinals only made the playoffs once in a four-year span was 10 years ago, when St. Louis won the NL Central in 2000 after missing the playoffs the previous three years.

With their playoff hopes officially gone, the Cardinals join the Pirates in looking ahead to next season. The starting pitchers for Wednesday's game reflect that, as the two teams send a pair of young right-handers to the mound.

For the Cardinals, it will be P.J. Walters, who has yet to translate his impressive Minor League numbers into Major League success. At Triple-A Memphis this year, Walters posted a 3.81 ERA with 106 strikeouts against just 30 walks in 108 2/3 innings of work.

In six appearances with the big league club, however, Walters has a disappointing 7.83 ERA in 23 innings pitched, including a pair of starts. With fellow rookie Jaime Garcia being held out to limit his innings pitched, Walters will take the opportunity to show what he can do.

"Everybody likes to end on a good note," said Walters. "You want to finish strong and get ready for next year. I've just got to do my job and get outs."

Walters last start came on June 1 against the Reds, which saw him give up seven runs on eight hits over four innings in a no-decision. In his only other outing this month, Walters allowed five runs on seven hits in four innings of relief against Pittsburgh, while he struck out six and walked one.

"I feel like, at times, I've pitched really good," he said. "It's just when I've pitched bad, it seems to go really bad. I haven't gone out there and thrown a run here, a run there. It seems like it's always a run here, and four runs here. I just need to do a better job of eliminating the big innings."

For the Pirates, it will be James McDonald, who will be monitored closely.

Rather than a specific pitch count, it will be McDonald's efficiency that manager John Russell will be paying close attention to. McDonald has pitched 134 2/3 innings this season, which already is an increase of 41 1/3 innings over McDonald's total from 2009.

The Pirates do not like to let their pitchers exceed their previous-year workload by too much, but if McDonald proves to be efficient in his final start, his innings won't be limited too significantly.

"He's got one more start and he really, really wants to make it," Russell said. "I respect that. I think his next start, he should be much more efficient."

Pirates: Alvarez has impressive second half
Through his first month at the Major League level, rookie third baseman Pedro Alvarez batted just .214, collecting 18 hits in 84 at-bats over 24 games. He added just three home runs with 11 RBIs, while striking out 35 times.

Since the All-Star break, Alvarez is a .261/.342/.473 hitter in 66 games. Alvarez has belted 11 home runs to go with 47 RBIs, 16 doubles and 30 walks, while striking out 78 times.

In his last eight games, the third baseman has gone 14-for-31 with five doubles, three home runs and 15 RBIs, while putting together an eight-game hitting streak. With a single on Tuesday in St. Louis, the rookie not only extended his current hitting streak to eight games, but also made it 16 games in a row in which he's reach base safely.

While he snapped a six-game extra-base hit streak on Tuesday, Alvarez ranks eighth in the National with 47 RBIs since the All-Star break. What has changed in the second half to make Alvarez a more consistent hitter?

"I think the more at-bats he gets, he gets more comfortable," said manager John Russell. "With him, being more of a power guy, sometimes it takes more time to get in that rhythm and trust it, and take the emotions out of it. He knows himself more. He knows the opposition a little more."

Cardinals: Wainwright to miss final start
Before they were eliminated from playoff contention on Tuesday night, the Cardinals announced earlier in the day that right-hander Adam Wainwright would skip his Thursday start for precautionary reasons.

Wainwright, had an MRI done on Monday, which showed he had a strained muscle in his pitching arm. Though he pitched with the issue in his previous two starts, the Cardinals falling out of the race allowed the 29-year-old ace to rest.

"I strained a muscle in my upper forearm, close to my elbow area," he said. "All those muscles are designed to help keep your elbow stable, so when you lose a muscle, then it puts more pressure on the ligaments and tendons.

"For me to go out there minus a muscle is probably not smart. I have a million reasons why I should or could go out there and pitch, but none of them are worth the risk."

Worth noting
Right-hander Adam Ottavino, who has been on the disabled list since July with a shoulder injury, threw to Cardinals hitters before Tuesday's game. ... With a 7-2 victory on Tuesday, the Pirates won at Busch Stadium for the first time this season. ... Jeff Suppan took the loss on Tuesday night, his first against the Pirates since Aug. 11, 2006. ... Pedro Alvarez was named Player of the Week on Monday. In six games last week, he went 10-for-24 (.417) with four doubles, two home runs and a Major League-leading 13 RBIs.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.