The Cardinals got some help on Saturday, as Philadelphia ended Washington's seven-game winning streak, taking St. Louis one step closer to securing a postseason berth despite the Cardinals' loss to Seattle.
Thanks to the Nationals' loss, the Redbirds need just seven combined St. Louis wins and Washington losses to secure at least a Wild Card spot. It was welcomed news for a club that moved back into a tie for first place with Pittsburgh following the Pirates' victory over the Cubs.
"We know they're in there and figured they would be, too. They're a good club," manager Mike Matheny said of Washington. "They've got plenty of pitching and one of the most athletic lineups in baseball, in my opinion. We knew they just weren't going to go away. But how I view that whole thing is just take care of ourselves."
St. Louis will get a chance to take another step forward on Sunday, as they face off against Erasmo Ramirez, who will get a shot at his first Interleague victory. The rookie is 0-1 with an 8.44 ERA in three games, including two starts, in previous games against National League foes.
The Mariners, meanwhile, will have to face off against Shelby Miller, who tossed 6 2/3 scoreless innings against the Brewers his last time out.
"He's a guy who has been groomed to be a big-game pitcher, in my opinion," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. "He's had a lot of pressure on him since the day he signed and before that that he needed to be a front-line guy."
Ramirez has gone 5-1 with a 4.57 ERA in 11 starts after missing the first three months of the season with an elbow problem. He benefited initially from strong run support, but has been pitching well on his own and has a 2.27 ERA over his last five starts, including six scoreless innings in a no-decision against the Rays in his prior outing.
However, Ramirez did throw a season-high four walks and has struggled with command this season, issuing 21 walks in 61 innings this season compared with just 12 walks in 69 innings a year ago.
"Even if I walked four and had [few] strikeouts and everything, I threw for contact," Ramirez said. "Every time I'm going to throw the ball I think about just throwing the ball for the hit and making contact and not letting the ball get right over home plate, but trying to hit the corners."
Mariners: Finding playing time for the rookies
Manager Eric Wedge continues to juggle playing time for his young players, looking to get them experience in the closing weeks of the season, while being wary of putting them in over their heads as the Mariners face playoff contenders like the Cardinals and Tigers on this 10-game road trip.
The Mariners started four rookies on Friday and three of them -- second baseman Nick Franklin, shortstop Brad Miller and catcher Mike Zunino -- committed defensive miscues in the final three innings as the Cardinals came from behind for a 2-1 win in 10 innings.
"What you're seeing with us, especially late in ballgames, is just lack of experience," said Wedge, who sat Franklin and rookie outfielder Abraham Almonte in favor of more experienced players on Saturday. "A lot of these guys got to the big leagues quick, whether it be this year or last year or the year before. Some of them are still trying to get it going and figure it out."
Wedge also said the chance to play in front of sellout crowds in the heat of a pennant race can help mold his young squad.
"That is important," he said. "I've had young teams before. My third year in Cleveland, we were still young. Not this young, but we were still young. We were in it until late and the experience we gained was big.
"It's a back-and-forth thing you have to go through. Any team that is playing like St. Louis or Detroit, unless you go out and spend a ton of money, you have to go through these growing pains to ultimately be a championship club."
Cardinals: Audrey Perez has excellent mentors
• Before Saturday's game against Seattle Cardinals catcher Audrey Perez received some tutelage from manager Mike Matheny and teammate Yadier Molina, who have combined to win nine Golden Glove awards.
"He's playing with, in my humble opinion, the best catcher to ever live in Yadi," catcher Rob Johnson, who also took part in the instructional session, said. "And Yadi is more than willing to help anybody that comes along. And your manager is a Gold Glove-caliber catcher when he played, so he's got a lot of influence and a lot of knowledge and wisdom."
Perez already has a strong arm, so the focus of the session was on footwork and quickness.
• In the Mariners, the Cardinals face the club with the best Interleague ERA in history. Dating back to the start of Interleague play in 1972, the Seattle staff has a 3.63 ERA.
• At 3-4, the American League West is the only Major League division the Cardinals have a losing record against.
Jacob Thorpe is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.