ST. LOUIS -- After most of their losses this year, the St. Louis Cardinals have consistently reminded everyone that there's still plenty of time left in the season.
Following Wednesday night's 8-1 rout of the New York Mets, right fielder Stephen Piscotty was asked about the wild-card race in which the team is entwined.
"There's no time to waste now," he said. "We're competing against four or five other clubs for two spots. We can't worry about it. We just have to win every night."
That goes double for New York (63-63), which badly needs a victory in Thursday night's series finale in Busch Stadium. The Mets fell 4 1/2 games behind St. Louis for the National League's second wild-card spot and will need a big finish if they are to defend their NL championship.
Meanwhile, the Cardinals are playing themselves into a more favorable position. They remained 1 1/2 games ahead of Miami for the NL's second wild-card slot and are a game behind reeling San Francisco for the first wild-card spot, which would bring with it a home game on Oct. 5.
St. Louis (67-58) can climb to 10 games above .500 for the first time all year if it can win the series finale. It will hope for a good start from Adam Wainwright (9-7, 4.71), whose six-inning outing Friday night at Philadelphia was his first start past the fifth inning since July 27.
Wainwright gave up three runs to the Phillies and left trailing 3-1, but the Cardinals rallied for a 4-3 win in 11 innings. He's traditionally struggled against New York, going 3-4 with a 5.17 ERA in 10 career outings.
As for the Mets, they'll turn to right-hander Seth Lugo (0-2, 3.04), who will make his second MLB start. Lugo pitched decently in an 8-1 loss Friday night at San Francisco, pitching 6 2/3 innings and giving up three runs off seven hits and a walk with three strikeouts.
New York has battled injuries lately and absorbed two more Wednesday. After putting left-hander Jonathon Niese on the 15-day DL with left knee pain, the Mets had to pull right fielder Jay Bruce with a right calf cramp in the second inning.
But New York could get Bruce back in the lineup Thursday night, which would have to serve as a relief to manager Terry Collins.
"His calf knotted up when he was actually jogging out to right field in the first inning," Collins said of Bruce. "We're going to wait to see how it is tomorrow. We couldn't afford to have him blow it out, so we took him out."
While Bruce is just 13-for-77 since being acquired from Cincinnati on Aug. 1, he still has 27 homers and 86 RBI for the season, giving opponents pause when they think about pitching around Yoenis Cespedes.
The Mets will need all the offense they can get against the Cardinals, which tied a season high with 19 hits Wednesday night and lead the NL with 178 homers. In its last 13 games, dating back to Aug. 9, St. Louis has cracked 28 homers.