Wainwright set to oppose Gonzalez in series opener

Associated Press Modified: October 6, 2012 at 7:16 pm •  Published: October 6, 2012
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Strasburg, who had elbow surgery in September 2010, was unsuccessful in persuading the Nationals to allow him to finish out the season, the first for the franchise to reach the playoffs since the 1981 Montreal Expos.

Very little time has passed since the Nationals and Cardinals met in St. Louis on the final weekend of the regular season, with Washington on the verge of clinching the league's best record and St. Louis closing in on the final playoff spot.

St. Louis reached the division series by winning the wild-card playoff 6-3 in Atlanta on Friday, a game marred by an infield fly rule call that'll live on forever in the minds of disgruntled Braves fans, but with botched umpiring that affected both sides.

"I've never seen anything like it," Carlos Beltran said. "It's part of baseball. We're happy."

Last year, the Cardinals won every round as an underdog while embracing a rally squirrel as mascot — not to mention marketing opportunity — after a critter raced across home plate and perhaps threw Phillies pitcher Roy Oswalt off his game.

Though manager Tony La Russa and Albert Pujols are gone, the Cardinals retain a seasoned core and added Beltran and injured Rafael Furcal.

Experience helps.

"I remember my first postseason start was in 2009 and I was as nervous as I could be," utilityman Skip Schumaker said. "Last year I felt like I was ready to help the team win. It's a whole different feeling because you've been through it."

Rookie manager Mike Matheny has appeared pressure-proof.

"We've been pretty consistent in our approach, and the approach is we've each got to do our part, and nothing more," Matheny said. "We do our part and we do it on a consistent basis and we'll be in a good spot in the end."

Johnson wants to keep things calm, too.

"You really don't do anything different. I don't want to act any different," Johnson said. "It's going to be business as usual, we've got no trick plays we're running out there. Going to try to miss some bats and try to hit some pitches and outscore them."