Cardinals host Brewers in unusual role as spoiler
ST. LOUIS — The St. Louis Cardinals are in unfamiliar territory.
When they host the Milwaukee Brewers on Friday night in the first game of a season-ending series at Busch Stadium, the Cardinals will do something they haven’t done since 2010 — play a game after being eliminated from the playoffs.
The Cardinals had hoped to still be trying to catch the Colorado Rockies in the race for the second National League wild-card spot, but their 11th-inning, 2-1 loss to the Chicago Cubs on Thursday night eliminated them from the race. It is the second consecutive year St. Louis will spend October at home.
Unlike last year, they were knocked out before the season finale.
“I always stand up here and tell you I think we’re just a few games or something happening away from having things work out and we can still achieve what we want to achieve,” Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said Thursday night. “This is the first time I have to stand up here and say, ‘That’s not going to happen.’
“We fell short of what we wanted to do.”
The Brewers, meanwhile, remain mathematically alive in the race to catch Colorado — which is why manager Craig Counsell had a simple instruction for his players as they left for St. Louis.
“I told the guys last night to pack for 10 days,” Counsell said Thursday. “That’s what we have to plan on. Pack for 10 days, or you can pack for three and run out of clothes. I don’t care, but we are going to be gone for 10 days.”
Counsell might be a little more optimistic of that occurring than the odds would indicate. The Brewers’ 4-3 victory over the Cincinnati Reds on Thursday left them two games behind the Rockies with three to play. The Rockies, who had the day off Thursday, host the Los Angeles Dodgers for three games over the weekend.
Either the Rockies or the Brewers will advance to the NL wild-card game, which will be played Wednesday against the Diamondbacks in Arizona. Any combination of Colorado wins and Milwaukee losses totaling two gives the wild card to the Rockies.
Counsell has instilled a belief in his players that they are not out of the race, even if the odds might be stacked against them.
“You don’t get these opportunities every year in your career as a player,” he said. “You think you might. When you get one your first year, you think you are going to have it every year. You don’t get these every year. You value them.
“Really, we’re in no different of a spot than where we’ve been all season. We’re in the same spot. I feel like we’ve thrived in this position all year, so why not now?”
The Brewers will start Chase Anderson on Friday against the Cardinals’ John Gant, who is making only his second start since he was recalled from Triple-A Memphis at the start of September.
Gant (0-0, 3.65 ERA) was lifted after three innings in his start Sunday in Pittsburgh, having allowed one run on three hits. Gant, who also started seven games for the Atlanta Braves last year, will be making his first career appearance against the Brewers.
Anderson (11-4, 2.81 ERA) is 1-0 with a 3.78 ERA in three starts against St. Louis this year, and 1-2 with a 2.95 ERA in his career (eight starts).
Counsell has not tried to figure out the exact combination of Milwaukee wins and Colorado losses it will take for his team to win the last playoff spot. He is just hoping whatever it takes happens.
“That’s the easiest way to do it,” he said. “We’re baseball players. We’re not math guys.”