ST. LOUIS — Mat Latos won his fourth straight decision to finish the regular season and Scott Rolen homered off Chris Carpenter, helping the Cincinnati Reds keep the St. Louis Cardinals' postseason plans on hold with a 3-1 victory Tuesday night.
The Cardinals' magic number for clinching the second NL wild card remained at one with a game to go, and they were left in the uncomfortable position of watching the Dodgers on television and rooting for a loss for the second straight night. Los Angeles, which began the day two games back with two remaining, played at home against the Giants later Tuesday.
Cincinnati, the NL Central champion, remained tied with Washington for the league's best record. The Reds need a win Wednesday and a Nationals loss to earn home-field advantage throughout the postseason.
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.
Injured most of this season, Carpenter made just his third start of the year gave up a pair of runs in the sixth to snap a 1-all tie. Jay Bruce and Dioner Navarro had RBIs.
Despite the loss, the Cardinals are 11-4 in their last 15 games. They'll draw Homer Bailey (13-10, 3.75 ERA), coming off a no-hitter, in the regular-season finale, with Adam Wainwright (14-13, 3.94) pitching for St. Louis.
If the Cardinals and Dodgers end up tied, a one-game playoff would be Thursday in Los Angeles, with the winner advancing to the wild-card game Friday in Atlanta.
Latos (14-4) had an abbreviated appearance while freshening up for the postseason and, like teammate Bronson Arroyo a day earlier, worked five innings and threw fewer than 75 pitches. Latos allowed a run on four hits with four strikeouts, all in a span of four at-bats against the bottom of the St. Louis lineup.
The 24-year-old Latos was 4-0 with a 2.27 ERA over his last seven starts and set career highs in starts (34) and innings (209 1-3).
With what was left of an announced crowd of 39,644 standing and hooting, Aroldis Chapman worked the ninth for his 38th save in 43 chances. He has allowed just one hit in four scoreless appearances covering four innings since returning from a nine-game absence due to shoulder fatigue on Sept. 21.
Carpenter gave up three runs and seven hits in six innings while losing for the fifth time in 19 career decisions against Cincinnati. He had seven strikeouts, two more than his total for the first two starts over 11 innings.
The Cardinals stranded two runners in the second and third against Latos and had two on with one out in the seventh before Sean Marshall got pinch-hitter Shane Robinson to fly out and Jon Jay on a broken-bat groundout.
Rolen tied it in the fourth when he jumped on a first-pitch hanging breaking ball for his eighth homer.
Reds manager Dusty Baker played for keeps in the early going. He brought the infield in with a runner on third and one out in the first for Matt Holliday, who hit a sacrifice fly, then intentionally walked eighth-place hitter Pete Kozma with two outs and a man on third in the second inning to get to Carpenter, who grounded out sharply to third.
NOTES: Carpenter has 1,085 strikeouts with St. Louis, six more than Bob Forsch for third on the franchise list. Next is Dizzy Dean at 1,095. ... Reds pinch-hitter Todd Frazier grounded out sharply with two on to end the sixth, dropping him to 6 for 12 with three RBIs in that role. ... Joey Votto doubled and walked twice and has a major league-leading .515 on-base percentage with 27 walks since returning to the lineup Sept. 5.