SEA@STL: Matheny on Kozma's hustle, Carpenter's gems

ST. LOUIS -- While the Cardinals still have their sights set on the organization's first division title since 2009, the club could be just days away from first clinching, at minimum, a spot in the National League Wild Card game. Home-field advantage through the League Championship Series remains up for grabs as well.

Despite falling, 4-1, to the Mariners on Saturday, the Cardinals' magic number shrunk to seven with Washington also losing. That means that any combination of seven Cardinal wins and/or losses by the Nationals -- who sit five and half games out of the second Wild Card spot -- would ensure the Cardinals a playoff berth.

At earliest, the Cardinals could clinch their spot on Wednesday.

"We know they're in there and figured they would be, too. They're a good club," manager Mike Matheny said of Washington, which entered Saturday riding a seven-game winning streak. "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."

The Cardinals are also trying to creep up on the Braves, who have held the NL's best record since Aug. 4. Atlanta, with its 89th on Saturday, sits three wins ahead of the Cardinals, Pirates and Dodgers.

The club that finishes with the league's best record gets the benefits of home-field advantage in both the Division Series and LCS. That team would meet the winner of the play-in Wild Card Game in the NLDS.

If the Cardinals were to finish the season with the same record as the Dodgers and/or Braves, they would not have the tiebreaker against either team for home-field advantage. That is determined by head-to-head records, and the Cardinals lost their season series against both Los Angeles (3-4) and Atlanta (3-4).

Rosenthals welcome first child to family

ST. LOUIS -- For at least the next two months, Lindsey Rosenthal will be standing by for most of the late night cries of the family's new baby girl.

"Right now, especially in the pennant chase and come playoffs, she's just going to try to take most of the brunt at night," said setup man Trevor Rosenthal. "I'll probably be making up for it in the offseason. But I can take that."

Trevor and Lindsey Rosenthal welcomed their first child, Chloe Elizabeth, at 1:10 a.m. Friday. Both mother and daughter are healthy, and Rosenthal said he expects them to come home Sunday. After watching his teammates play from the hospital the past two days, the right-hander was eager to rejoin the Cardinals for Saturday's game against Seattle.

"[It was] weird. I don't like it," Rosenthal joked. "It's not as fun, for sure. Actually, I think it's harder to watch on TV. It doesn't seem like a big game when you're here playing, but [it does] when you watch it on TV."

Perez learning catching trade from Molina, Cards

Perez on call to bigs / Perez sobre llamado a Mayores

ST. LOUIS -- Audry Perez has some very qualified teachers at his disposal.

Before Saturday's game, the 24-year-old catcher received instruction from a group that included two Gold Glove winners -- manager Mike Matheny and Yadier Molina, who have nine awards between them -- a pair of veteran catchers in Rob Johnson and Tony Cruz, and a bullpen catcher, Jamie Pogue, who spent time in the Cardinals' Minor League system.

"He's playing with, in my humble opinion, the best catcher to ever live in Yadi," Johnson 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."

The focus of the session was fine-tuning Perez's footwork to quicken and improve the consistency of his throw in an effort to take full advantage of his strong arm. Molina, who appeared to be the most active instructor, has proved invaluable for the young catcher getting his first taste of the big leagues.

"It's good. Yadi and Matheny are good catchers," Perez said. "I listen, I practice every day. Watching Yadi catch, it's good for me."

"Anything Yadi says is gold to these guys, and it should be," Matheny said. "Coaches will say things and, yeah, it'll carry some weight. But when Yadi takes the time to come out there, that's pretty special."

And it isn't just a one-way street. Johnson said Molina regularly solicits feedback from his teammates in the same way they will approach him for advice.

"Which is really unique with that kind of caliber to player to say, 'Hey, watch me, if you see something that I'm doing, point it out to me as well,'" Johnson said. "That just tells you what kind of guy he is."

Worth noting

• Both Brock Peterson and Shane Robinson earned starts on Saturday as Matheny went with a right-handed heavy lineup against lefty starter James Paxton.

• According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the Cardinals' walk-off win on a passed ball was just the second such occurrence in the Majors over the last six seasons. The other came on April 27, 2012, when the Yankees topped the Tigers on Alex Avila's passed ball. Before Friday, the last Cardinals victory to come via a passed ball was against the Giants in 1979.

• Though Matheny said he was not aware that, before Friday, he was the most recent Cardinals catcher to throw out two attempting basestealers in the same inning, he remained impressed by catcher Yadier Molina's ninth-inning throws a day later. With the game tied, Molina first threw out Endy Chavez, who was in motion on a called hit-and-run, to complete a double play. Then, after a single by Dustin Ackley, he also caught him trying to swipe second.

"With Yadi, they don't normally try once," Matheny said. "I think he's earned that reputation. Those were two really good throws … that second throw was as picture perfect as you could ever ask, as far as the exchange, footwork, throw itself. It was real impressive."