When Cardinals ace Adam Wainwright got to state his case to manager Mike Matheny for pitching one last time in the regular season he explained that 10 days between appearances was too much. He wanted to get a few innings to avoid the break. He volunteered to even appear in relief if necessary.
“Give me something” Wainwright said.

He got that and much more.

In the Cardinals’ 6-2 victory against the Cubs Wainwright punctuated one of his strongest seasons of his career with 5 1/3 scoreless innings Saturday and his 19th victory. He got the innings needed to “stay sharp” for his start Thursday in Game 1 of the National League division series and he put final touch of gloss on his baseball card stats. The righty will finish the season tied with Washington’s Jordan Zimmermann for the league high in wins the second time in the past five seasons that he’ll lead the NL in wins. By not allowing a run Wainwright dropped his ERA to less than 3.00 at 2.94 and with a single in his last at-bat of the regular season he held his average at .211.

“I wanted to keep my average above .200” Wainwright joked. “That was the perfect day for me right now. That was exactly what we had planned. Five innings. We won the game. I got the work in and go out of there to get some good rest too.”

The game was not without its postseason importance. The Cardinals’ fifth consecutive win moved them a game ahead of Atlanta for the best record in the National League. The Braves (95-66) who lost to Philadelphia on Saturday night hold the head-to-head tiebreaker against the Cardinals (96-95). To earn home-field advantage throughout the NL postseason the Cardinals must finish a game ahead of the Braves. With a win Sunday in the regular-season finale against the Cubs the Cardinals can assure they will host the winner of Tuesday’s wild-card playoff in Game 1 on Thursday.

The Cardinals’ division rivals Pittsburgh and Cincinnati will meet in Pittsburgh on Tuesday to determine which team advances to the NLDS.

Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said before Saturday’s game that he didn’t see a major difference between being the first seed or second seed into the NL playoffs. The second seed will draw the LA Dodgers and lefty Clayton Kershaw in the best-of-five round. Matheny’s point underscored the tricky balance he’s attempted to strike after clinching the division title Friday — get players healthy keep them sharp and win when possible. Matheny announced that he’ll start Jake Westbrook on Sunday as a nod to the veteran but scheduled starter Joe Kelly will be ready and used in relief.