The St. Louis Cardinals still have a chance to make the playoffs, albeit a slim one.
Knowing they need lots of help to have a shot at the postseason, the Cardinals open a two-game set against the Milwaukee Brewers at Miller Park.
St. Louis, which took two of three from Houston over the weekend, is 3 1/2 games behind the Astros and Chicago Cubs for the NL Central lead with five to play. The Cardinals finish the regular season with three games in Arizona.
“Like Tino Martinez said the other day, ‘Have you ever been on a team that’s lost five in a row? Have you ever been on a team that’s won five in a row?”’ reliever Josh Pearce said. “That happens a lot.”
The Cardinals took a devastating blow to their playoff hopes when they were swept in Houston the previous weekend.
“It was neat after losing three down there to get two out of three here,” Cards starter Sterling Hitchcock said. “Nobody wants to get eliminated. This shows a lot about this club and its character.”
While St. Louis has its sights set on the playoffs, Milwaukee had more modest goals coming into the season. The Brewers won their 66th game Sunday, 10 more than last season when they lost a team-record 106.
“That was big today. Our bottom line was to finish 10 games better. Now we look at our next goal, 70 wins,” manager Ned Yost said.
Milwaukee may have a lot to say about the NL Central playoff race, following this two-game set against St. Louis with a four-game series in Houston.
“The schedule is tough but that’s our goal,” Yost said.
STANDINGS: Cardinals - 3rd place, 3 1/2 GB, NL Central. Brewers - 6th place, 18 1/2 GB, NL Central.
CARDINALS PROBABLE STARTER: Woody Williams (16-9, 3.99 ERA). Williams has alternated wins and losses in his last four starts. He held the Brewers to three hits in seven innings in a 13-0 win on Thursday. The right-hander had given up 15 runs over his previous two starts. Williams is 8-4 with a 3.40 ERA in 21 career appearances, including 12 starts, against Milwaukee.
BREWERS PROBABLE STARTER: Ben Sheets (11-12, 4.36 ERA). Sheets is 1-5 with a 6.60 ERA in his last nine starts. The right-hander did not get a decision Wednesday as he gave up six runs and 11 hits in 5 2-3 innings of the Brewers’ 7-6 win over St. Louis. He’s 3-4 with a 4.47 ERA in nine career starts against the Cardinals.
OFFENSIVE LEADERS: Cardinals - Albert Pujols, .363 avg., 43 HRs, 124 RBIs and 133 runs; Edgar Renteria, 34 SBs. Brewers - Scott Podsednik, .315 avg., 95 runs and 42 SBs.; Richie Sexson, 42 HRs and 119 RBIs.
SEASON SERIES: Cardinals, 11-3.
STREAKS AND NOTES: Cardinals - CF Jim Edmonds’ status for this series is uncertain after he missed the last four games with a twinge on his side. … OF Pujols is 12-for-25 (.480) in his career against RHP Sheets. … St. Louis relievers have pitched 11 consecutive scoreless innings. Brewers - OF Podsednik is one away from breaking the club record for hits by a rookie. He is tied for the mark of 168, set by Pat Listach in 1992. … 1B Sexson, who has homered in his last two games, is 5-for-21 (.238) with a homer in his career against RHP Williams. … Sheets has won 11 games in each of his three full seasons in the majors.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Cardinals - 33-43 on the road; Brewers - 31-48 at home.
INJURIES: Cardinals - OF Edmonds (side), day-to-day; C Steve Torrealba (elbow), 15-day DL; RHP Jimmy Journell (shoulder), 15-day DL; RHP Kiko Calero (knee), 60-day DL; RHP Chris Carpenter (shoulder), 60-day DL; RHP Gene Stechschulte (shoulder), 60-day DL. Brewers - OF Geoff Jenkins (thumb), 15-day DL; RHP Jayson Durocher (shoulder), 15-day DL; LHP Matt Ford (elbow), 15-day DL; RHP Nick Neugebauer (shoulder), 15-day DL; RHP Todd Ritchie (shoulder), 60-day DL.