ST. LOUIS -- After the Miami Marlins pulled out a crazy 7-6 win Friday night over the St. Louis Cardinals, manager Don Mattingly was asked if they sent a message.
"I don't know how much of a message it sends," he said. "There are a lot of big games left. You love coming out after the (All-Star) break and getting a win, but it feels like Opening Day -- you have lots of games left."
Still, Miami (48-41) kept pace with the New York Mets for the National League's second wild-card spot and dropped St. Louis (46-43) two games in arrears. The teams meet again Saturday night in the middle game of their three-game weekend set in Busch Stadium.
The series opener showcased the best and worst of both teams. The Marlins' mediocre starting pitching -- aside from ace Jose Fernandez -- was offset by a solid offense and an outstanding defense.
The Cardinals' power bats -- they belted four more homers Friday night, giving them 121 in 89 games -- were ultimately canceled out by a poor defensive game and more shaky work from the bullpen.
While St. Louis was officially charged with just one error, it failed to make two plays that could have shortened innings and led to Miami runs. Three different relievers coughed up runs, with new closer Seung Hwan Oh absorbing the loss.
"It's definitely not how you want to play the game," center fielder Randal Grichuk said. "We had the lead twice and blew it both times."
After suffering one of their most frustrating defeats of the year, the Cardinals will turn to ace Adam Wainwright to make things right. Wainwright (8-5, 4.49) is coming off consecutive wins over Milwaukee and Pittsburgh in which he allowed just one run in 14 innings.
The veteran right-hander tied a season high with nine strikeouts against the Pirates on July 7, earning a 5-1 victory.
"I was having fun mixing and matching four-seams and two-seams and cutters and curveballs," Wainwright said. "I was pitching out there. That's how I did it in 2014. I've kind of found that again."
What's more, Wainwright has enjoyed pitching against the Marlins in his career, going 4-2 with a 2.33 earned run average in eight career starts. This will be just his second start against them since 2010, though
The Marlins will run right-hander Tom Koehler (6-7, 4.50) to the mound. He hopes for better success than he found Sunday, when he lasted only four innings in a 7-3 win over Cincinnati, giving up seven hits and three runs.
Koehler, who was bailed out by his defense in that outing, is 1-2 with a 7.86 ERA in three career starts against St. Louis, losing his only start against it last year.
However, Miami appears to have momentum on its side presently. In search of its first playoff spot since 2003, it has five batters over .300 in its everyday lineup, quality athletes at just about every spot on the field and one of the top bullpens in the NL.
"It doesn't take 25 guys to make the playoffs, it takes more than that," said Marlins second baseman Miguel Rojas, who had the game-winning hit Friday night. "I think we're separating ourselves from a team playing .500 baseball to a team going for the playoffs.