Sitting 12 games under .500 in mid-August, it didn't seem feasible the Milwaukee Brewers would be playing meaningful games at the end of September.
Despite the unlikelihood of them reaching the postseason, the Brewers look to stay in the hunt by beating the Houston Astros in their series finale Sunday at Miller Park.
Milwaukee (81-77) fell to 54-66 with a loss to Philadelphia on Aug. 19 and appeared all but out of the NL playoff chase. It has gone 27-11 since, though, and is four games behind St. Louis for the NL's second wild card with four to play.
With a 9-5 win over Houston and the Cardinals' 6-4, 10-inning loss to Washington on Saturday, the Brewers stayed alive with no room for error. A St. Louis victory also would knock Milwaukee from contention.
Corey Hart, suffering from plantar fascitis in his left foot, homered twice.
''As long as I can jog it's a lot easier,'' Hart said. ''So, it was a little easier tonight. I'm trying to go as long as I can.
"We've had a few letdowns, so to get the early lead and bang the ball around tonight was nice for us."
Aramis Ramirez went 3 for 4 with a solo shot and Norichika Aoki was 3 for 5 with a pair of RBIs.
''That's a pretty potent offense over there and they showed why they're where they're at,'' Houston's interim manager Tony DeFrancesco said.
Fernando Martinez, Brian Bogusevic and Tyler Greene all hit two-out homers in the ninth to make things interesting for Houston (52-106), which missed its chance to win three straight for the first time in more than four months. The Astros matched last season's franchise record for losses.
"It was nice they didn't quit," DeFrancesco told the team's official website.
The Brewers had lost four of five before Saturday's win, and Mike Fiers hopes to snap out of his own slump Sunday.
Fiers (9-9, 3.55 ERA) hasn't completed five innings in three of his last five starts, including the last two. He allowed three runs and threw 81 pitches in three innings against Pittsburgh on Sept. 20, then gave up four runs and nine hits in 4 1-3 innings of Tuesday's 4-2 loss to Cincinnati.
The right-hander has an 8.03 ERA over his last three starts.
"I've got to live with it and try to get better,'' Fiers said.
Fiers pitched well in his only outing versus the Astros, giving up two runs in six innings to beat Jordan Lyles 13-4 on Aug. 1.
Lyles (4-12, 5.44) will oppose Fiers again Sunday, and like his counterpart has been struggling lately.
The right-hander is coming off a second consecutive rough outing, giving up three runs and six hits in four innings of last Sunday's 8-1 loss to Pittsburgh. He allowed four runs and walked four in five innings against Philadelphia in his previous outing Sept. 16.
Houston is 5-19 in Lyles' starts, including three losses to Milwaukee. He is 0-2 with a 5.21 ERA in those outings, allowing a career-worst nine runs Aug. 1.
The Brewers have won 10 of the last 12 meetings at Miller Park, outscoring the Astros by 36 runs in that stretch.