Cards to open NLDS in LA

Cards to open NLDS in Los Angeles

ST. LOUIS -- It's been up in the air for days while the Dodgers lost five straight and their magic number remained at one over the Rockies, but Los Angeles' 5-0 win over Colorado at Dodger Stadium on Saturday night finalized the National League playoff field. Earlier Saturday, the Cardinals' 5-4 loss to the Brewers determined that the Redbirds would start on the road against the winner of the NL West.

So the Cardinals will face the NL West champion Dodgers in the NL Division Series, starting with Game 1 in Los Angeles on Wednesday, followed by Game 2 on Thursday. Game 3 will be at Busch Stadium on Saturday, followed by Game 4, if necessary, on Sunday. If the series goes the full five games, the finale will be at Dodger Stadium on Tuesday, Oct. 13.

The Cardinals have lost five of their past six games since clinching the NL Central crown last Saturday in Colorado, with only the home finale remaining on Sunday afternoon. This wasn't quite how manager Tony La Russa and the Cardinals wanted to finish the regular season as they gear up for Wednesday's playoff opener.

"We're definitely not firing on all cylinders," La Russa said. "But we're going to end up with 91 or 92 wins, and we're going to be playing in October. We have to make sure we understand where the priorities are.

"This is a very tough-minded group, and we really made it a point to keep our focus and our edge. And I think there have been a lot of games since we have been in a really good position where it has been there. But it has slipped at times, there's no doubt about it."

The Cardinals will likely send ace Chris Carpenter to the hill in Game 1, followed by Adam Wainwright in Game 2. Joel Pineiro, who takes the mound on Sunday afternoon in the regular-season finale, is the likely Game 3 starter.

"We haven't been playing too clean of baseball," said Kyle Loshe, who on Saturday was trying to make his case as the fourth playoff starter when one is needed. The other option is veteran John Smoltz. "Hopefully, we can get it cleaned up. Sometimes, it's hard to keep that level that we were at and you don't want any kind of a letdown, but obviously that has happened. We just have to regroup and get back to what we were doing."

Lohse gave up two earned runs in six innings. He took a 4-3 lead into the sixth until a fluke play pegged him with the loss. He finished a disappointing 2009 regular season with a 6-10 record after spending two different stints on the disabled list. The righty, who signed a four-year, $41 million contract extension last September, will now wait to hear if he will be the team's fourth starter in the playoffs or be moved to a role in the bullpen.

"Obviously, I want to start, but it's not up to me," Lohse said. "I just have to wait and see what decision is made. Smoltz and I are both kind of sitting here waiting to know what we are doing. [Regardless], we're going to go out there and get outs when we get the ball.

"I just wanted to go and have a good start and throw the ball the way I wanted to, and prove that I could throw 100 pitches and finish strong. ... I felt that I was able to do that."

B.J. Rains is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.