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Colorado Rockies vs St. Louis Cardinals

St. Louis Cardinals manager Mike Shildt, left, looks on as the trainer examines St. Louis Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina's hand during a game between the Colorado Rockies and the St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium in St. Louis on Thursday, Aug. 22, 2019. Photo by David Carson, dcarson@post-dispatch.com

There are six legitimate candidates for what appears to be three National League playoff spots and the Milwaukee Brewers can be said to have the easiest schedule of the lot.

Assuming that the Los Angeles Dodgers and Atlanta Braves are all but in the postseason house, that leaves the Cardinals, Chicago Cubs and the Brewers competing not only for the Central Division title but two wild-card spots.

After Thursday’s games, the Cardinals have 36 remaining, 16 of them against winning teams (Chicago seven, Milwaukee six, Washington three) and 20 against losing teams or .500 clubs like Arizona. Milwaukee has a 15-20 breakdown, also involving three games this weekend with Arizona, three with Colorado and four-game series against both Miami and San Diego out of the division. But the Brewers started Thursday’s play three games behind the Cardinals.

Chicago has 20 games remaining against winning clubs and 15 against losing teams. But the key may be that the Cubs have 17 road games left out of 35. They are 25-37 away from home, which was the third-worst road record in the league before Thursday.

The wild-card-leading Washington Nationals have the stiffest schedule left, with 27 games against teams with winning records and only eight against losing teams — Miami (six) and Baltimore (two).

Wild-card-challenging Philadelphia, which has a five-game series at Washington in the final week of the season, plays 23 against winning clubs and 13 against losing teams. New York, another wild-card threat, has a 21-14 balance between winning teams and losing or .500 clubs, including four with Arizona.

JOSE MARTINEZ AWAITS WORD

Injured outfielder Jose Martinez (shoulder sprain) has been throwing and hitting. But he admits he is not at 100 percent yet as he awaits word of a minor league rehabilitation assignment either this weekend or more likely next week, which is the last week of the minor leagues’ regular season. Martinez was injured in a game nearly two weeks ago when he banged into a wall chasing a fly ball.

“It depends on how I feel after today,” said Martinez, hitting .268 with 10 homers and 40 runs batted in. “It’s a process. The shoulder — you have to be careful with that. Just going out there and trying to be a hero is not the idea.

“We’ll see what the trainer decides.”

Martinez said he felt only a “pinch” in his shoulder. “The inflammation is down,” he said.

There still would be at least a month to go when Martinez returns. But he said, “I don’t like to be here at the stadium, doing nothing and watching games. I’ve already had that for three or four years. It’s boring. A lot.”

CARPENTER RARELY OUT VS. RIGHTY

Matt Carpenter hasn’t started against a righthander when healthy for only a half dozen games this season but one of those times was Thursday night against Colorado’s German Marquez, who had retired Carpenter seven times in nine meetings. Tommy Edman was at third base and Harrison Bader was in the outfield and it seems manager Mike Shildt will choose among those three for two spots, at least for a while. Carpenter had struck out four consecutive times over his previous two games, one as a pinch hitter, and he was one for his last 11, with six strikeouts since he homered and walked twice last Saturday.

Carpenter pinch hit to lead off the seventh inning Thursday, drew a walk, and scored on Dexter Fowler's home run that put the Cardinals ahead to stay 6-5.

Carpenter’s on-base percentage is .323, Bader’s .319 and Edman’s .303, but Edman’s .265 batting average clearly was the best.

LEONE BACK; FERNANDEZ DOWN

Veteran reliever Dominic Leone was recalled from Class AAA Memphis and rookie Junior Fernandez, who had two scoreless innings on Wednesday, was optioned to Memphis, no doubt to re-appear when rosters can be expanded on Sept. 1.

Leone, who has been up and down several times this year, has given up just one run in his past 12 1/3 innings at Memphis, striking out 23 and walking just two. The 22-year-old Fernandez allowed two runs and struck out seven over five innings of relief for the Cardinals after starring at Memphis.

PLAYERS’ CHOICE WEEKEND

The uniforms and headgear sported by the Rockies and Cardinals during Thursday’s first game of their four-game series were far different from what you’ll see for the other three games this weekend.

For the rest of the series, Players’ Weekend rules will apply. Besides every player having his nickname on his back, the Cardinals will wear white uniforms with white caps and helmets and the Rockies will be attired in all black, with the exception of the pitchers on both teams wearing the opposite color caps of the uniforms their teammates will be wearing. …

Shildt said that lightning in the area was one of the big concerns why Wednesday’s rain-delayed game did not resume. He said the forecast was that the game could not have been started until 12:10 a.m. Thursday morning. The game was halted at 9:40 Wednesday and was called a final at 10:46, with Milwaukee winning 5-3.

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