ST. LOUIS (AP) — The St. Louis Cardinals needed this one a lot more than the Cincinnati Reds. The NL Central champions are in tune-up mode.
The Reds are tied with the Washington Nationals for the best record in the NL at 96-64 after a 4-2 loss Monday night to the Cardinals, who clinched a tie for the second NL wild card. The final series for Cincinnati, which got manager Dusty Baker back from a mini-stroke that sidelined him for 11 games, is a dress rehearsal.
"Right now, it's about preservation and conservation," Baker said. "It was a matter of trying to win the game, but trying to get your guys fresh at the same time."
Baker was able to rest outfielder Ryan Ludwick, who played just five innings. Ludwick had missed the previous eight games with tightness in his left groin.
Second baseman Brandon Phillips was removed after the seventh. He suffered tightness in his left leg on Sunday and appeared to tweak the leg again while running the bases in the third inning Monday.
"I'm good, nothing to worry about," Phillips said. "I'm going to be ready to perform and go out there and try to lead the team."
Starting pitcher Bronson Arroyo exited after five innings allowing three earned runs on six hits and throwing 73 pitches.
"I'm ready to go," Arroyo said. "I'm as good as I'm ever going to be. My command is good, my stuff is there and I'm healthy.
"We've done all we can at this point."
Jaime Garcia homered off Arroyo and pitched into the seventh for St. Louis.
The defending World Series champions have won 11 of 14 and lead the Los Angeles Dodgers by two games. The Dodgers beat the Giants on Monday night.
One more loss by the Dodgers or another Cardinals win would wrap up a playoff spot for St. Louis and a visit to Atlanta for the wild-card game Friday.
Arroyo (12-10) threw 73 pitches while allowing three runs over five innings in a tuneup for the postseason. He topped 200 innings for the seventh time but is 0-3 in his last four starts.