ATLANTA -- With the National League Central title and home-field advantage in their pocket, the Cardinals will use this weekend's final regular-season series to ready for the start of their NL Division Series next Friday in St. Louis.
On Friday night at Turner Field, that meant resting several everyday position players and giving a bunch of bench players the opportunity to log a few at-bats. With the organization still sifting through its postseason roster options, how some players perform this weekend could determine whether they fit on the 25-man NLDS roster.
"We, obviously, had a good long season to watch everybody, but we've got some decisions to make," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said before the team's 4-0 loss to the Braves. "We might as well let the rest of this play out. We're not in a hurry. We don't have to have a decision made Sunday after the game. We have time."
For others, the off time is welcomed after having pushed hard down the stretch.
The Cardinals did not make any alterations to their rotation -- Jaime Garcia (Friday), John Lackey (Saturday) and Lance Lynn (Sunday) -- will pitch as scheduled. But the Cardinals will not push any too deep. The club set a loose pitch limit of 80 for Garcia on Friday and ended up pulling him after a four-inning, 72-pitch effort.
"I was trying to do my best with just treating it like any other start," Garcia said. "But the main thing, talking to the manager, was just getting my pitches done and getting a feel for things. And I feel like I was able to accomplish that."
Not only are the Cardinals looking to preserve workload for later this month, but there are also relievers they would like to get involved.
Among those is Adam Wainwright, who threw a scoreless inning Friday and is scheduled to pitch again on Sunday. That will give the Cardinals three looks at Wainwright out of the bullpen before building their playoff 'pen.
"Certainly better command and location of everything I threw and better action on my cutter and breaking ball," said Wainwright, who recorded two of his outs with the curveball. "The more I get comfortable pitching in that situation, coming out of the bullpen, and the mechanics and in live situations again, the more crisp I'll be."
Matheny said it is "not a priority" to get Michael Wacha into a game via a relief appearance before the season ends. Wacha, who may go as many 13 days in between starts, will use the down time to fine-tune his mechanics during side sessions.
With Matt Holliday having shown on Wednesday that he can play a full nine innings in the field, the Cardinals don't see it as imperative to push him over these final days of the regular season. The same goes for Matt Adams, though he was in Friday's starting lineup.
"It's nice to take advantage of an opportunity to get a little more rest, but we'll also get work and try to stay sharp," Matheny said. "Whether it's good or bad, it is what it is. But I think for how we've had to push up unto this point and really test some guys, I think it could be a benefit."