Cards rest Wainwright, others after clinching

Cards rest Wainwright, others after clinching

PHOENIX -- As early-season projections began to identify the Cardinals as overwhelming favorites to win the National League Central, manager Mike Matheny urged his club not to get consumed by the noise. Their own lofty expectations would do.

The subsequent road from Game 1 to 161 was circuitous and dotted with many more offensive frustrations than anticipated, but the Cardinals nevertheless reached their desired regular-season end before facing the D-backs on Sunday. With the Reds scoring three eighth-inning runs to defeat the Pirates, 4-1, the Cardinals clinched the NL Central crown without having to rely on Adam Wainwright on Sunday to pitch them past a potential tiebreaker game.

  Date   Matchup Highlights
Gm 1 Oct. 3   STL 10, LAD 9 video
Gm 2 Oct. 4   LAD 3, STL 2 video
Gm 3 Oct. 6   STL 3, LAD 1 video
Gm 4 Oct. 7   STL 3, LAD 2 video
Wainwright headed out for his pregame warmup just after the Reds had taken the three-run lead. He eyed the scoreboard to see it turn final and then ended any preparation of starting when Nick Greenwood walked out to the 'pen, hugged Wainwright and took his place on the mound.

Greenwood went on to make the first start of his career in a 1-0 Cardinals victory.

"Honestly, I've been in the situation before and have done it in [Triple-A] Memphis a few times, so I'm sure that's probably one of the reasons they were confident in me to go out there on such short notice," Greenwood said.

By pulling Wainwright, the Cardinals kept him from a chance to win his 21st game of the season, but they ensured he'll be plenty rested for Game 1 of the NL Division Series, where he'll start opposite Clayton Kershaw on Friday. Wainwright played a large role in the decision making.

"One thing I do know is that my arm could use a break," Wainwright said. "I'm going to use the rest to get stronger and be ready for that Los Angeles Dodgers team, which is going to be very tough. Whether I'll be sharper or not [with extra rest], I don't know. But I'll feel more rested, I'll feel stronger."

With Sunday's game irrelevant in the NL Central final standings, the Cardinals also pulled several starting position players out of the lineup. Matt Carpenter, Jhonny Peralta, Jon Jay, Molina and Matt Holliday were all taken out of the lineup upon the Pirates' game going final.

It was an especially beneficial day off for Holliday, who is still recovering from a lingering illness. Holliday was initially written into the lineup, though the Cardinals knew they were pushing him at less than 100 percent health.

The Cardinals went on to win without most of their regulars, locking up another 90-win season for the organization.

"I'd say it's been maybe the most challenging, if not more so, than any other year we've had," said Matheny, who has guided his club to the postseason in each of his first three seasons. "So yeah, when you have challenges and rise to the occasion, I think there is something that does make special memories. We do have a long way to go, but to even clinch a spot, regardless of what it is, has a lot to say about the character of these guys."

Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, and follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.