The Milwaukee Brewers are the best home team in the National League. They’ll have to play like it this week to have a chance to reach the postseason.
The Brewers try to cut into their NL Central deficit for the second consecutive night Tuesday when they continue their three-game series against the stumbling St. Louis Cardinals.
Milwaukee (80-76) defeated the Cardinals 13-5 on Monday, moving within three games of the division-leading Chicago Cubs. The Brewers have a four-game series with San Diego after this set while the Cubs, who were idle Monday, wrap up their season with three games at Florida and three at Cincinnati.
Chicago’s magic number is four to clinch the Central.
“We’re in a tough spot right now and really have to win all of our games,” said Dave Bush, Monday’s winning pitcher.
Milwaukee, which has not advanced to the playoffs since winning the AL pennant in 1982, has the advantage of playing the remainder of its games at home. The Brewers have won nine of their last 12 at Miller Park to improve to an NL-best 48-27 at home this season.
The Cardinals, meanwhile, have been outscored 70-31 during a 10-game road losing skid. They’re trying to avoid losing 11 straight on the road for the first time since May 12-29, 1978.
Brewers first baseman Prince Fielder hit his NL-leading 48th home run Monday, and is batting .452 (14-for-31) with five homers and 12 RBIs in nine home games this month.
Rookie third baseman Ryan Braun homered in his second consecutive game Monday, giving him 33 on the season, and is 8-for-23 (.348) with three home runs and nine RBIs in his last six games at Miller Park.
Jeff Suppan (10-12, 4.72 ERA) looks to help the Brewers continue their postseason push when he takes the ball Tuesday.
Suppan gave up three runs and seven hits in six innings of a 3-1 loss to Atlanta on Thursday - his first loss in five starts.
The right-hander, though, has won his last two outings at Miller Park. He is 7-3 with a 3.97 ERA in 15 home starts this season.
Suppan, who pitched for St. Louis from 2004-2006, has won both of his starts this season against his former club, allowing three runs over 15 1-3 innings. He is 4-2 with a 3.64 ERA in eight career starts versus the Cardinals.
St. Louis (73-83) pulled within one game of the Central lead on Sept. 6, but has since lost 15 of 19 to fall out of the race.
Albert Pujols, who had missed five straight starts because of a strained left calf muscle, started Monday but went 0-for-3 with a walk.
“It feels OK,” he said. “Am I playing (Tuesday)? I don’t know.”
Pujols needs one RBI to become the first player in major league history to reach 100 in each of his first seven seasons.
Braden Looper (12-11, 4.67) takes the mound Tuesday after giving up five runs and nine hits in 5 2-3 innings of an 18-1 loss to Houston on Thursday night. The right-hander had allowed two runs or fewer in five of his previous six starts.
Looper again looks to shake his struggles when pitching under the lights. He is 7-1 with a major league-leading 1.69 ERA in 10 day games, but 5-10 with a 6.47 ERA in 19 starts at night.
In two starts against the Brewers this season, Looper is 1-1 but has allowed eight runs in 11 innings.