Brewers-Cardinals Preview

The Associated Press

The Milwaukee Brewers are eyeing a spot in the postseason.

First, they need to get back to .500.

Aramis Ramirez goes for another strong performance at the plate as the Brewers attempt to continue gaining ground on the St. Louis Cardinals in the NL wild-card race by sweeping this three-game set Sunday.

Milwaukee (69-70) has won 15 of 19, reviving its postseason hopes after winning the NL Central last year.

The Brewers are five games back of St. Louis (74-65) for the league's second wild-card spot, but are also chasing Los Angeles and Pittsburgh in the standings.

Despite their recent charge, the Brewers have not been .500 since they were 9-9 on April 24. To get there, they'll need to sweep their first three-game series at Busch Stadium since Oct. 2-4, 2009.

"We've got a good shot," Ramirez said of the postseason chances. "We've got to keep playing good baseball. We played good at home, we played good the last two road trips."

Ramirez is also playing well, hitting .415 with five homers and 18 RBIs in 14 games. The third baseman went 3 for 3 with a solo homer, a double, two runs and two walks to power Saturday's 6-3 win over the Cardinals.

He missed two games with a lower back strain, including a 5-4, 13-inning victory to open this series Friday.

"It's hard to keep him out of the lineup when he does the things he does," manager Ron Roenicke said. "I want to take care of him when he's hurt. He came in (Saturday) and told me he's playing."

Ramirez was batting .218 average with two homers as of May 18, but he's since hit 20 homers while raising his season average to .300.

He's hitting .375 in 11 season meetings with the Cardinals.

Ryan Braun is also on a torrid pace offensively with a .414 average and 15 RBIs in 13 games. The reigning NL MVP has five hits in this series, highlighted by his go-ahead homer Friday.

Shaun Marcum (5-4, 3.53 ERA) is expected to face St. Louis for the first time since getting hammered in a 12-6 home loss in Game 6 of last year's NL championship series that eliminated the Brewers.

Marcum was hammered for four runs in the opening inning before getting pulled. He also lost Game 2 while giving up five runs in four innings.

Overall, the right-hander went 1-3 with a 6.10 ERA in six starts against St. Louis in 2011.

He enters this meeting with an 0-1 record and 4.30 ERA in three starts since returning from right elbow tightness that landed him on the disabled list for two months.

His latest outing ended in an 8-4 win at Miami, but he didn't get a decision despite being staked to a two-run lead after two innings. He allowed four runs and seven hits - two homers - before leaving with two outs in the sixth.

The Cardinals have dropped eight of 11, and are scheduled to send Joe Kelly (5-6, 3.54) to the mound. The rookie right-hander is 2-0 with a 2.41 ERA in his last three home games - two starts.

That strong stretch continued Monday, when he tossed six scoreless innings before giving up a two-run homer and being pulled with two outs in the seventh of a 5-4 win over New York. Kelly helped himself by scoring a run after getting his first career double in his second outing since returning to the rotation.

"I thought it was his best stuff of the season," manager Mike Matheny told the team's official website.

Kelly has split two starts with the Brewers, compiling a 3.86 ERA. He won the most recent matchup at home Aug. 3, yielding three runs and 10 hits in 5 2-3 innings of a 9-3 victory.

What to Read Next