Owners of the best record in the majors, the Cardinals have gone just 7-7 since clinching the NL Central on Sept. 18, the earliest of any team this year.
The Cardinals had an opportunity to tie the franchise record for wins in a season (106), set by the 1942 World Series champions, but they lost 5-1 on Saturday. A victory on Sunday will tie them with the ’43 and ’44 teams that won 105 games.
“You want to come to the park, score early and give yourself some positives to build on going into the postseason,” said Cardinals first baseman Albert Pujols, who was 1-for-4 with a double Saturday. “If it doesn’t happen, we need to focus and get pumped up for Tuesday or Wednesday. But you want to finish strong, build on your record.”
Right-handed reliever Julian Tavarez returned to the team Saturday after serving an eight-game suspension for having a foreign substance on his hat. He worked a scoreless sixth with two strikeouts.
For the second straight day, Steve Kline worked part of an inning, getting a strikeout.
“Julian showed he’s a veteran and Steve had another good day,” Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said. “There are positives we can take from this one.”
The Cardinals are guaranteed home-field advantage throughout the NL playoffs, but they still don’t know who they’ll play in the first round. As the top seed, the Cardinals will play the wild card, unless it is Houston.
Houston holds a one-game lead over San Francisco entering Sunday’s season finale. The Astros will host Colorado, while the Giants are in Los Angeles.
Lyle Overbay homered and drove in two runs for the last-place Brewers, who can take the season series from St. Louis after going 3-13 against the Cardinals last year. The series is tied at eight wins apiece.
The Brewers can also match their win total from last season (68), but will finish in the Central cellar for the second straight year.
Milwaukee was fourth in the division with a 45-41 record at the All-Star break, but went 22-52 in the second half.
“I’ve got this plan in my head of we’re trying to accomplish,” Brewers manager Ned Yost said. “A big part, for me, is the fans in Milwaukee. I think they’re phenomenal. I really do. I want them to be able to enjoy winning baseball in that city and I think we made great headway in the first half.”