ST. LOUIS — With one game to go, the Cincinnati Reds are tied for the best record in the National League. Normally, that’s a very, very good thing.
After doing their best to keep St. Louis from clinching a playoff spot by beating the Cardinals, 3-1, on Tuesday night, manager Dusty Baker isn’t so sure.
‘‘We don’t know if it’s going to be advantageous to get first, second or third or the wild card,’’ Baker said. ‘‘Right now, this is all new.’’
The NL Central champions still don’t know who they will play in the Division Series, although facing the Cardinals could prove to be a nice tune-up for the playoffs.
‘‘It’s a lot of energy,’’ said Jay Bruce, who had an RBI single. ‘‘I think it’s a good series for us to play going into the playoffs.’’
‘‘Scott Rolen actually pointed that out to me. If we had gone somewhere where they’re not a contender, we would have been like, ‘All right, let’s get this over.’ But these guys are good, they play us tough.’’
Mat Latos won his fourth straight decision to finish the regular season and Rolen homered off Chris Carpenter, helping to keep St. Louis’s postseason plans on hold for a few hours.
But the Cardinals wrapped up the second NL wild card — baseball’s final playoff berth — when the Los Angeles Dodgers lost to San Francisco, 4-3.
Rookie manager Mike Matheny said he was sending his St. Louis players home to get some rest, rather than remain in the clubhouse to watch the Dodgers and hope for a late-night victory party, which is what they did Monday.
Almost everybody stayed put, though, and Matheny said the players who left were back in the clubhouse well before the Cardinals learned they’d be headed back to the playoffs to defend their World Series championship.
Reporters were not allowed into the victory celebration, but loud cheering could be heard beyond the locked door just outside the clubhouse.
‘‘I think they realized how special this is,’’ Matheny said. ‘‘You can’t take these for granted. We were talking about it being kind of subdued and it was, but they’re still proud. And had every right to be.’’
The Cardinals will play at Atlanta Friday in the new one-game playoff. Matheny said Kyle Lohse (16-3, 2.86 ERA) will start against the Braves.
The 37-year-old Carpenter (0-2) has a wealth of big-game experience and went 4-0 in the postseason last fall for the World Series champions, memorably outdueling Philadelphia ace Roy Halladay in Game 5 of the NL Division Series.