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Cubs look to clinch division title against Cardinals

ST. LOUIS -- While time is running out on the St. Louis Cardinals, the party appears ready to start for the Chicago Cubs.

A Chicago win Wednesday over St. Louis would give the Cubs the National League Central championship. Meanwhile, the Cardinals are hanging on in the NL wild-card race.

The Cardinals (82-75) worked 3 hours, 46 minutes for an 8-7 victory over the Cubs on Tuesday. Colorado (85-73) earned a 6-0 victory over the Miami Marlins, and the Rockies remained 2 1/2 games in front of St. Louis in the race for the NL's second wild-card spot with five days left in the season.

The Milwaukee Brewers (83-74) sit 1 1/2 games behind Colorado.

The Cardinals realize they could be headed to the same fate as last year, when they were eliminated on the final day.

"We've just got to play our games," St. Louis first baseman Matt Carpenter said. "Whatever happens, happens."

What has to happen for St. Louis on Wednesday night against the Cubs in Busch Stadium is simple: Win. There can be no more missteps for the final five games, and even that might not be enough.

And the schedule-maker hasn't exactly provided St. Louis with a soft touch for this assignment. Chicago (88-69) needs one more win or a Milwaukee loss -- the Brewers edged the Cincinnati Reds 7-6 on Tuesday night -- to crack open champagne for a third straight playoff appearance.

The Cubs just about did it Tuesday night despite trailing 8-3 after seven innings. After scoring four runs in the eighth, they got the tying and go-ahead runs aboard in the ninth before pinch hitter Javier Baez struck out to end it.

"Let's not overreact to anything," Chicago manager Joe Maddon said. "I loved the comeback. I loved the energy. We continued to battle all the way through ... there were a lot of positives."

John Lackey (11-11, 4.67 ERA) will take his turn at pitching a division-clincher for the Cubs. Lackey, who normally pitches well at Busch, is coming off a no-decision Friday night in Milwaukee, where he gave up three runs in four innings of Chicago's 5-4, 10-inning victory.

In seven career starts against the Cardinals, Lackey is 2-1 with a 2.64 ERA, including a win this season. In three outings against his old team this year, Lackey is pitching to a 3.57 ERA. He is 13-4, 2.10 in 25 career starts at St. Louis.

Lackey will be opposed by Michael Wacha (12-8, 4.00 ERA), who has had a difficult time with the Cubs this year and in his career. Wacha is 0-2 with a 7.88 ERA in three starts against Chicago in 2017, giving up 14 runs in 16 innings, and he is 4-6 with a 6.32 ERA in 15 career outings (13 starts) against the Cubs.

Wacha allowed two runs in five innings and 73 pitches in his last start on Friday night at Pittsburgh, settling for a no-decision in a game St. Louis won 4-3.

The Cardinals probably will play without Yadier Molina (concussion) for a second consecutive game. The status of left fielder Tommy Pham (left side bruise) is also uncertain after he left Tuesday night for a pinch hitter in the eighth inning.

Baez (left knee), who didn't start Tuesday night after leaving the Monday night game, is a possibility to return to the lineup Wednesday.

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