The visiting Milwaukee Brewers and St. Louis Cardinals continue their battle for playoff berths when they open their five-game series Thursday.
The Cardinals (27-26) and Cincinnati Reds (29-28) are tied for second in the National League Central, both one game above .500. The Brewers (27-28) are one game back of them, tied with the Philadelphia Phillies (28-29) in the race for the second NL wild-card slot.
“We’re going to have to be at least .500 to be in contention, I know that,” Brewers manager Craig Counsell said after his team fell to the Reds 6-1 Wednesday night. “I think if you get over .500, then you’re looking pretty good. It’s as simple as that. I think it’s pretty safe to say we have to win at least three and probably four (against the Cardinals) to assure getting in.”
Both teams will enter this series at Busch Stadium on a down note. The Brewers lost two of three games to the Reds this week and the Cardinals lost two of three to the Kansas City Royals.
The Brewers will start righty Corbin Burnes (4-0, 1.77 ERA) in the series opener. In his previous start, last Saturday, Burnes got the win after giving up four hits over six shutout innings in a 5-0 win over Kansas City. He struck out nine and did not walk a batter.
In his one start against the Cardinals this season Burnes, allowed one run in 4 2/3 innings during a 3-2 loss Sept. 14. He is 1-1 with a 6.19 ERA in six career appearances against the Cardinals, including three starts.
“Just because it’s the last outing of the year doesn’t mean we’re going to go out there and change what we’ve been doing and the way we approached the game,” Burnes said. “The way we’re going to go out and attack the Cardinals is going to be the same as how we approach the entire season. I just faced these guys a couple of starts ago, and with a pretty important series … we really need to win every game.”
He will face left-hander Kwang-Hyun Kim (2-0, 1.59). Kim threw seven scoreless innings in his only career start against the Brewers, getting a no-decision in a game the Brewers won in extra innings on Sept. 14.
Kim struggled in his most recent start, allowing four runs in 5 1/3 innings during a 5-4 Cardinals victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates.
The Cardinals are closer to full strength for this series. Earlier this week, closer Giovanny Gallegos returned from his groin muscle strain to strengthen the bullpen, and right fielder Dexter Fowler came back from a stomach ailment to give the flagging offense a boost.
“It was fun to get out there and see the boys,” Fowler said. “And just get in the clubhouse and laugh with the boys and joke with the guys. And just getting out there grinding again with them. It’s unfortunate I couldn’t be out there soon, but I’m glad to finally get out there.”
Brewers slugger Ryan Braun (sore back) sat out Wednesday’s game. Counsell hopes to get him back in this series, preferably with some work in the outfield. That would allow Daniel Vogelbach to fill the designated hitter role.
–Field Level Media