Reigning Cy Young award winner Chris Carpenter tries to help the St. Louis Cardinals clinch a third straight NL Central division title on Sunday afternoon when they conclude a three-game series against the Milwaukee Brewers at Busch Stadium.
St. Louis (83-77) cut its magic number to win the division to one by rallying for a 3-2 victory on Saturday. The Cardinals have won two straight since a stretch of eight losses in nine games narrowed their lead over second-place Houston to one-half game.
“Nobody got to the point where we started getting down on our team,” left fielder Preston Wilson said. “Nobody started pointing fingers.
“We just said, ‘Hey, we’ve got to get it done.”’
Pinch-hitter Scott Spiezio delivered a three-run triple in the eighth inning to erase a 2-0 deficit. He had entered the at-bat in a 1-for-20 slide.
“Numbers to me don’t really matter,” Spiezio said. “Anything that happens in the past doesn’t matter, and if you start thinking about your numbers it can affect the future.”
If the Cardinals lose Sunday, they can still clinch if the Astros lose at Atlanta.
If St. Louis loses and Houston wins, the Cardinals will be forced to host San Francisco on Monday in a makeup game they would have to win to avoid a one-game playoff at Houston on Tuesday.
The NL Central winner will travel to the home park of the NL West champion— either Los Angeles or San Diego—for Game 1 of the division series.
The Cardinals will turn to their ace in Carpenter (15-8, 3.09 ERA), who’s lost two straight outings by giving up six runs each time. He also gave up a season-high 12 hits on Tuesday in a 7-5 loss to San Diego.
The right-hander fell to 8-4 with a major league-leading 1.81 ERA in 17 home starts this year.
Carpenter is 2-3 with a 5.30 ERA in six career starts against Milwaukee (74-87).
Wilson, who started the season with Houston, has turned in an excellent week for St. Louis. He’s 6-for-16 with two homers and five RBIs in his last four starts.
Cardinals slugger Albert Pujols went 2-for-4 on Saturday, including a leadoff single in the eighth inning to trigger the winning rally. He has a career-high 136 RBIs despite missing nearly three weeks in June due to a strained oblique muscle.
Milwaukee kept St. Louis off the board behind starter Ben Sheets, who pitched six scoreless innings. But setup man Jose Capellan got into trouble in the eighth inning, allowing two baserunners before closer Francisco Cordero gave up Spiezio’s hit.
“It was a great game,” Brewers manager Ned Yost said. “Our guys took a responsibility to come in and make the St. Louis Cardinals earn it. They beat our best.”
Milwaukee fell for the sixth time in seven road games.
Rookie Carlos Villanueva (1-2, 3.97) will make his sixth career start for the Brewers. Villanueva is 0-2 with a 4.45 ERA in five starts this year.
The 22-year-old right-hander’s most impressive start came against St. Louis on Sept. 20, when he allowed three hits over seven stellar innings in a 1-0 victory at Miller Park.