The Cardinals used Thursday's off-day to manipulate their rotation and maximize their use of ace Adam Wainwright down the stretch.
Rather than have Shelby Miller start the series opener in Philadelphia on Friday, Wainwright will get the call and Miller will go on Saturday. That will keep Wainwright, who last pitched Sunday, on regular rest and sets him up to pitch in the team's two remaining series against the Pirates and each of the two series against the first-place Brewers.
Had Wainwright remained on turn, he would have missed an opportunity to pitch during the Cardinals' early-September visit to Milwaukee.
"We like seeing him out there," manager Mike Matheny said. "We've adjusted his workouts accordingly, and the same thing with Shelby."
Wainwright, who is tied for the big league lead with 15 wins, ranks third in the National League in ERA (2.40) and innings pitched (176).
With the Cardinals vying for their fourth consecutive postseason appearance, a three-game slate with the last-place Phillies at Citizens Bank Park comes at exactly the right time. And as St. Louis continues to duke it out with the Brewers in the NL Central and the Giants and Braves for the NL Wild Card spots, the first inning will be pivotal in Friday night's series opener.
Kyle Kendrick will take the hill for the Phillies, and the opening frame has burned the right-hander consistently in 2014. He has a 9.00 ERA in the first inning, which is the highest in baseball among pitchers with at least 20 starts this season. Kendrick has also allowed eight first-inning home runs, including one Saturday to the Giants' Hunter Pence.
Kendrick's outing ended in a similarly disappointing fashion. After allowing an RBI double to Michael Morse on his 80th pitch of the night, Kendrick was already headed toward the dugout by the time Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg reached the mound to take the ball from him.
"Kendrick is a competitor. He wants to be out there all the time. I don't blame the guy for being frustrated coming out of the game. I expect that," Chase Utley said.
The right-hander allowed four runs (three earned) over five innings vs. the Giants pushed his ERA up to 4.90.
Cardinals: Lackey ponies up with Babe Ruth ball
Pat Neshek, an avid baseball card and memorabilia collector, received a Babe Ruth autographed baseball from John Lackey on Wednesday as a reward for giving up his No. 41 when Lackey arrived at the Trade Deadline.
Lackey had worn No. 41 in 11 of his 12 Major League seasons, the lone exception being in 2010, when Victor Martinez wore it in his last year with the Red Sox.
Lackey planned to present Neshek with a watch as a gesture of gratitude. However, when Neshek heard of those plans, he mentioned to his new teammate that he would prefer something that could go into his extensive memorabilia collection. He first considered a baseball card, then settled on a Babe Ruth ball that he had been eyeing for some time.
He received the ball in the mail this week, showing it off to awestruck teammates in the clubhouse.
"It's pretty awesome," Neshek said. "It's something I've always wanted. It's the best autograph I have in my collection. Man, what a gift."
Phillies: Amaro not on the hot seat
Despite having the third-highest payroll in baseball, the Phillies are going to miss the postseason for the third consecutive year.
But Phillies president David Montgomery's support for general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. has not wavered publicly, including Tuesday at the organization's Baseball 101 Clinic and Luncheon for Women at Citizens Bank Park.
"Ruben is not on the hot seat," Montgomery told a large group of Phillies fans during a question-and-answer session.
Montgomery has continually supported Amaro, despite nearly constant criticism from outside the organization.
Montgomery told The Philadelphia Inquirer in June, "I think we have pretty good people doing these jobs. We saw, over a long period, pretty good success with this group of people. Obviously, Ruben is part of that group."
• After Thursday, the Cardinals will have three more off-days before the regular season concludes.
• Since June 26, Ben Revere leads all of baseball with 73 hits and a .369 batting average (72-for-195), raising his season average from .270 to .311.
Erik Bacharach is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.