Cardinals in playoff mode as they take on Rockies

DENVER -- Their win Sunday at San Francisco enabled the St. Louis Cardinals to split a four-game series with the Giants and not fall back in the National League wild-card scramble.

The Cardinals, who open a three-game series Monday against the Colorado Rockies, trail the Giants by one game for the second wild-card spot. The New York Mets, who won Sunday, are one game ahead of the Giants in the race for the first wild-card team.

All three teams have 13 games left to play.

"This is playoff baseball already for us," Cardinals second baseman Kolton Wong said. "We're playing every single game like it's our last."

In the series opener with the Rockies, the Cardinals will start Carlos Martinez, who is 14-8 with a 3.15 ERA. The Cardinals have won five of his past six starts. They lost the last one Wednesday at Chicago, when he gave up eight hits and four runs in six innings with no walks and nine strikeouts, and the Cubs won 7-0.

Martinez didn't face the Rockies when the Cardinals won two of three games from Colorado in St. Louis from May 17-19.

Martinez is 1-0 with an 8.04 ERA in six games, two starts, against the Rockies and 1-0 with a 6.75 ERA in two games, one start, at Coors Field. That start was June 10, 2015, a 7-2 Cardinals win in which Martinez allowed eight hits and two runs in 6 1/3 innings.

Tyler Anderson will start Monday for the Rockies. A 26-year-old rookie who made his major league debut June 12, Anderson has been remarkably consistent and a huge addition to the Colorado rotation.

But he is coming off a poor outing last Monday at Arizona, a 12-9 loss to the Diamondbacks in which Anderson did not factor in the decision after allowing nine hits and six runs, five earned, in 4 1/3 innings.

In his three prior starts before that game, Anderson was 1-1 with a 1.93 ERA and six walks and 17 strikeouts in 18 2/3 innings.

Anderson, who has never faced the Cardinals, is 5-5 with a 3.65 ERA in 17 starts and is 5-1 with a 3.04 ERA in 11 starts at Coors Field. He has pitched at least six innings in 12 starts and has pitched seven or more four times.

"I think in a lot of ways he's well beyond his years, his experience level," Rockies manager Walt Weiss said. "The pitchability, the demeanor, the confidence, the competitiveness -- he doesn't look like a rookie when he's out there on the mound.

"He understands how to upset timing -- speed hitters up, slow them down, put sequences together. He gets all that. It's one thing to understand it, but to be able to execute it, that's the next level. And that's what he's been able to do. He makes pitches."

The Rockies are coming off a three-game sweep of the San Diego Padres and will finish their homestand with the series against the Cardinals. At 72-77, the Rockies won't be playing in the postseason. But they have exceeded their 68-win total from last year and are three wins shy of their most victories since 2010, when they last finished above .500 with 83 wins.

Recent history and the ultimate won-lost record this season are bookkeeping matters compared with the more tangible opportunity for the Rockies to make it more difficult for the Cardinals to reach the postseason.

"There's always a reason to be motivated to play well, no matter what, and that's the way it always should be," Weiss said. "Of course, the Cardinals -- it's a great franchise, one of the best teams in the National League year after year, so we have to play at a high level to win that series. You always get up especially for teams like that."


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