The St. Louis Cardinals are having trouble clinching the NL Central. Although it may be done for them by the time they take the field on Saturday night, they also want to finally figure out how to beat the Colorado Rockies.
They’ll have two more chances to avoid a season series sweep by the Rockies, who will send Ubaldo Jimenez(notes) to the mound as they try to move closer to the NL wild card - and a possible division series meeting with St. Louis.
The Cardinals will hand the ball to Adam Wainwright(notes) (18-8, 2.59 ERA) at Coors Field, but a typical performance by one of the NL’s top starters didn’t stop Colorado from winning the series opener Friday.
The Rockies (87-67) overcame seven strong innings from Chris Carpenter(notes), then earned a 2-1 win on Yorvit Torrealba’s(notes) game-winning sacrifice fly in the bottom of the ninth as Colorado improved to 5-0 against St. Louis this year.
That lowered the Rockies’ magic number to clinch a postseason berth to six, as they maintained a 3 1/2-game lead on Atlanta.
“We’ve just got to keep winning. That’s it,” Torrealba told the Rockies’ official Web site.
St. Louis (89-65) needs one win or a Chicago loss to secure its first division title since 2006, but the final step has proved elusive as the Cardinals’ bats have gone quiet.
They fell 3-0 to Houston in their first chance Wednesday, and the Cubs have since won back-to-back games in San Francisco. Chicago faces the Giants again on Saturday afternoon.
Still, St. Louis’ second-half surge has been buoyed in part by the acquisition of Matt Holliday(notes), who helped lead the Rockies to the World Series two years ago. Friday’s game was Holliday’s first in Denver since the team traded him to Oakland in the offseason.
“You have to deal with all of the emotions that come with coming back. But I’m here to play ball and enjoy it,” said Holliday, who extended his hitting streak to eight games. “I’ll see some people, see some friends and at the same time hope we play well and wrap up the division.”
Colorado’s players seemed less emotional about the return of their former teammate, who won the batting title and finished second in the NL MVP voting in 2007. He’s batting .354 in the two months since moving behind Albert Pujols(notes) in the Cardinals’ lineup, but he also hit into a key double play in the eighth inning Friday.
“The fact that he’s here is fun for the fans and might be fun for him,” third baseman Garrett Atkins(notes) said. “But here in the clubhouse, we’re trying to win so many games and trying to get him out.”
St. Louis is 37-19 since acquiring Holliday on July 24.
Jimenez (14-11, 3.47) will be facing Holliday for the first time in his career, but he beat the Cardinals on June 7, allowing two runs and four hits in eight innings with nine strikeouts in a 7-2 win.
The Rockies swept a four-game set that week at Busch Stadium, and have won seven in a row against the Cardinals.
Wainwright wasn’t bad against Colorado on June 5, allowing three runs and three hits in six-plus innings, but his team’s bullpen crumbled in an 11-4 loss. Since then, the NL wins leader is 13-4 with a 2.17 ERA in 20 starts, and he’s allowed just four hits in 8 2-3 shutout innings in his career at Coors Field.
The right-hander is still a contender for the NL Cy Young Award, but Jimenez beat another of the league’s top pitchers in his most recent start, allowing one run and five hits in seven innings of a 5-1 win over Arizona and Dan Haren(notes) on Sunday.