"I'll be ready to go," Eckstein said about two hours before game time. "The main thing is my shoulder. I sprained my shoulder, but it's the type of thing that's very manageable. Just don't swing and miss."
Manager Tony La Russa initially left the leadoff spot and the shortstop position open in his lineup while he awaited word on Eckstein's availability. Eckstein was cleared in medical tests taken on Tuesday night, but the team still wanted to have him work out on Wednesday before playing him. Aaron Miles would have taken his place if Eckstein had been held out.
In the first inning on Tuesday, Eckstein sustained the shoulder sprain when he dove for a ball. He hurt his fingers on a bunt attempt in the eighth.
The final say on Wednesday was essentially left up to Eckstein himself. When he took some swings in the batting cage and reported no more pain than he could handle, he was included in the starting nine.
"We have a history of a couple years, and I trust him," La Russa said. "He said he's good to go."
Looking for leather: Elsewhere in the lineup, Juan Encarnacion got the start in right field, with Scott Spiezio receiving the call in left. Spiezio won out over Chris Duncan despite Duncan's pinch-homer on Tuesday.
"I think, wherever possible, you want to play our strongest defensive club," La Russa said. "Now, fortunately for us, a lot of our defense comes from guys that are also potentially offensive. So Encarnacion is playing right, Jimmy [Edmonds] is in center. The call came in left between Spiezio and Duncan. I chose Spiezio."
Matching up: La Russa caused some head-scratching on Tuesday night when he called on Adam Wainwright to face Jose Valentin with two on and two out in the eighth inning. The switch-hitting Valentin has been much more effective against right-handed pitching, and the Cardinals had a lefty in the game at the time.
"I actually got a call last night from somebody that's real close to Valentin's career that asked me about that," La Russa said. "And he is generally more dangerous from the left-hand side. But against us, we've turned him around a bunch of times lately, and I think he's 5-for-7, including 2-for-2 against Flores. So it hasn't been working for us. And the way that we were going to try to attack him, Adam could get that."
La Russa acknowledged that Wainwright's arsenal of pitches was a factor in the decision. Wainwright threw mostly curveballs to Valentin, retiring the second baseman.
This date in Cardinals history: On Oct. 18, 2004, the Cardinals found themselves in trouble for the first time in the '04 postseason. Jeff Kent's three-run walk-off home run off Jason Isringhausen at Minute Maid Park gave the Astros a 3-0 lead in Game 5 of the NLCS, and sent the series back to St. Louis with Houston holding a 3-2 lead. The Cards were one-hit by Brandon Backe and Brad Lidge, while Woody Williams tossed seven innings of one-hit ball before handing it over to Isringhausen.
Coming up: If a seventh game is needed, it will take place on Thursday night at Shea Stadium, with a first pitch at 7:19 p.m. CT. Jeff Suppan would take the mound for the Cardinals, while a potential Game 7 Mets starter is undetermined. Darren Oliver would seem to be a leading candidate.
Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.