The Chicago Cubs have already clinched a spot in the National League playoffs.

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But as they begin their final regular-season series against the rival St. Louis Cardinals on Friday at Wrigley Field http://www.giantsfanproshop.com/authentic-evan-longoria-jersey , the Cubs realize they need to be in the right mentality as they push for their third straight NL Central title.After a 3-0 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates on Thursday, the Cubs lowered their magic number to three to clinch the division title. More important, the win increased their lead over the idle second-place Milwaukee Brewers to one game in the Central.Article continues below ...While the Cubs’ postseason berth has already been secured, they are hoping to hold off the surging Brewers for the title. That will make the next three games against the Cardinals critically important.“I think these are all playoff games to get us ready for October,” Cubs center fielder Albert Almora Jr. told reporters Thursday, according to the Chicago Tribune. The Cubs will continue to play without shortstop Addison Russell. Major League Baseball extended his administrative leave through Sunday as Russell remains under investigation for alleged domestic violence against his ex-wife.The Cubs have also been hampered with injuries, which makes finding a way to stick together for the next three days even more important. “(It’s) all hands on deck,” first baseman Anthony Rizzo told reporters, according to the Tribune. “We got to figure out how to win.”Kyle Hendricks (13-11, 3.49 ERA) will start for the Cubs on Friday and will be in search of his third straight victory.Hendricks has allowed just one earned run in three of his four starts in September and has at least worked into the seventh inning in each of his past two starts. He is 4-2 with a 3.49 ERA in 13 career stats against St. Louis.While the Cubs have plenty at stake http://www.giantsfanproshop.com/authentic-evan-longoria-jersey , the Cardinals still have plenty of incentive. After being swept by the Brewers punctuated by a tough-to-swallow 2-1 loss on Wednesday, St. Louis could still find their way into the wild-card picture if they can find a way to get back on track in Chicago.But knowing the Cubs will be looking to still capture the division title, the Cardinals know what they’re up against.“In my mind, we have to win all three games — that’s all there is to it,” Cardinals pitcher Adam Wainwright told reporters on Wednesday, according to the team’s official website.“We had ourselves in a good spot and we just got beat three games by a good team over there and we did not make the pitches we needed to, make the plays we needed to, didn’t hit the way we needed to and that’s a good way to lose a baseball game, lose a series and get swept against a good team. You’ve got to capitalize and we had our chances certainly.”Wainwright will look to snap the Cardinals’ three-game skid when he takes the mound in Friday’s series opener. Wainwright (2-3, 4.08) has allowed four earned runs in two of his three September starts and will attempt to get St. Louis started in the right direction against Chicago Mark Melancon Jersey , against whom he has a 15-9 career record in 44 outings (35 starts) with a 3.94 ERA. Miami Marlins pitcher Jose Urena is hoping his Sunday start against the Philadelphia Phillies goes like the last time he faced them.Urena (6-12, 4.29 ERA) threw seven strong innings against Philadelphia earlier this month. A similar outing could help the Marlins (57-91) avoid a sweep Sunday afternoon at Citizens Bank Park. Right-hander Nick Pivetta (7-12, 4.64) will be on the mound for the Phillies in the series finale.Urena notched seven strikeouts and gave up only one run on four hits against the Phillies in a victory Sept. 3. It was part of a strong stretch for the right-hander. He has a 2.22 ERA in his last four starts, which have followed a suspension he received for hitting Atlanta Braves outfielder Ronald Acuna Jr. with his first pitch of the night Aug. 15.Article continues below ...In his last outing, Urena surrendered one run on four hits and three walks across 6 1/3 innings in a win against the New York Mets. He hasn’t lost since Aug. 10.“I think he’s throwing a lot of strikes with his fastballs,” Marlins manager Don Mattingly told mlb.com of Urena. “He’s keeping the ball down, and letting it just move. His breaking ball has got a little better shape right now. He’s got some depth to that pitch.”Urena is 2-4 with a 5.23 ERA in 13 career appearances (nine starts) against Philadelphia.The Phillies (76-71) have captured their first series win since early August (which also came against the Marlins at home) by winning the first two games of the set. Philadelphia was winless in its last 12 series entering the weekend, going 11-23 in that span.The Phillies’ postseason hopes are now slim, however. A 5-4 victory Saturday pulled Philadelphia within 6 1/2 games of the Braves in the National League East, and the team is 4 1/2 back of the Colorado Rockies in the National League wild card race.“That’s how we looked at (Saturday) Deion Sanders Jersey , this is an opportunity to gain a game in the standings, but much more importantly, it’s an opportunity to win a series and to demonstrate there’s zero quit in this team. We will fight until the very end,” Phillies manager Gabe Kapler told reporters after Saturday’s win.Pivetta is searching for his first win since Aug. 7. The second-year major leaguer has not allowed more than two runs in any of his last three starts, but also has not gone deeper than five innings during that stretch.The Washington Nationals plated two runs on three hits in 4 1/3 innings against Pivetta on Tuesday.Pivetta is 1-1 with a 2.30 ERA, 0.83 WHIP and 11.5 strikeouts per nine innings in three starts against the Marlins this season. He is 2-2 with a 5.67 ERA in seven career starts against them.Sunday’s game is the final contest between the Phillies and Marlins this season. Philadelphia has won 11 of the first 18 games in the season series. The Phillies have won nine season series in a row against the Marlins, which is tied for the second-longest such streak in the majors.
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