The St. Louis Cardinals are looking to bolster their lead for the second wild-card spot for a second straight day, but they might like to do it in easier fashion.
After winning the second of back-to-back extra-inning games, the Cardinals seek two straight road victories for the first time in nearly a month while Kyle Lohse looks to set a career high for wins Sunday against the Chicago Cubs.
St. Louis (81-71) rallied for a 5-4 win in 10 innings at Wrigley Field on Saturday, as Carlos Beltran hit a tying solo homer in the ninth and Jon Jay had an RBI double in the next inning. A day earlier, the Cubs won 5-4 in 11 innings after Darwin Barney hit a tying two-run homer off Fernando Salas with two outs in the ninth.
The Cardinals increased their lead for the second wild-card berth Saturday as all of their closest pursuers lost. They moved 2 1/2 games ahead of Milwaukee, three in front of Los Angeles and four over Philadelphia.
"Every win is important and every game is important," Jay said. "Tomorrow is the biggest game of the year."
Saturday's win was the Cardinals' fifth in six games but only the fourth in their past 15 on the road. They snapped a three-game skid at Wrigley, where they are 3-5 this season and have lost their last three series.
St. Louis hasn't won more than two consecutive road games since the All-Star break, the last time being Aug. 26-27.
The Cardinals should have a good chance behind Lohse (15-3, 2.71 ERA), the major league leader in winning percentage.
After having an eight-game win streak snapped Sept. 12 in San Diego, the right-hander rebounded with seven scoreless innings in a 4-1 home win over Houston on Tuesday. Lohse matched a career high with his 15th win, set during his first season with St. Louis in 2008.
"He was in position to have many more wins than 15 right now," manager Mike Matheny said. "He's thriving on being that guy for us, to really set the bar for the rest of the starters."
Lohse, among the NL's ERA leaders, earned one of his wins July 20 when he last faced the Cubs, allowing one run in seven innings of a 4-1 victory.
The Cardinals have won each of his last five outings against Chicago, but none of those came at Wrigley. He hasn't pitched there since a pair of starts in 2009, allowing four runs over five innings each time as the Cardinals lost both.
The right-hander might not have All-Star catcher Yadier Molina to help him out. Molina left in the ninth inning Saturday with back spasms after trying to avoid getting hit by a pitch from Carlos Marmol.
"I'm a little worried because any time it's your back, it's better to take one or two days off and finish strong," Molina said.
The Cubs (59-93) will send out Justin Germano (2-8, 6.17), who is 0-6 with an 8.16 ERA over his last six starts. The right-hander, though, has allowed a combined four runs and six hits in 10 innings over his last two outings.
The right-hander won his only start against St. Louis on May 13, 2007, while with San Diego.
Matt Holliday, hitting .424 in his last nine games against the Cubs, is 7 for 14 with four doubles and a home run against Germano. David DeJesus is 11 for 23 (.478) against Lohse, and Alfonso Soriano is 18 for 50 (.360) with three homers.
The Cubs, who have lost five of six, need to win four of their final 10 games to avoid the third 100-loss season in franchise history and first since 1966.
"Every win counts," pitcher Travis Wood said. "We're battling as hard as we can."