Cardinals clinch playoffs but lose to Brewers 6-4

BY foxsports • September 23, 2013

The St. Louis Cardinals clinched a playoff berth on the same day manager Mike Matheny turned 43.

Neither milestone caused much of a stir.

The Cardinals were calm and collected after Washington's 4-2 loss to Miami in the opener of a doubleheader Sunday assured the Cardinals of at least an NL wild-card berth.

Been there, done that - it's the third straight trip to the playoffs for St. Louis. An NL Central title is the bigger prize.

But for whatever reason, the Cardinals were uncharacteristically sloppy Sunday night in a 6-4 loss to the Brewers with three errors. Two came in a two-run second, and catcher Yadier Molina misplayed a throw home in the seventh that helped Milwaukee rebuild a two-run cushion.

The Cardinals entered play Sunday night with an NL-low 71 errors.

''We made many mistakes and were lucky to have been that close,'' manager Mike Matheny said. ''From here on out we have to play clean baseball and they know that.''

Matt Carpenter homered and singled, while St. Louis got back-to-back sacrifice flies in the sixth from eighth-place hitter Shane Robinson and pitcher Joe Kelly to briefly narrow the lead to 4-3.

Kelly (9-5) had a rough start to his night, including a throwing error in a two-run second for Milwaukee. He allowed seven hits and six runs - three unearned - over seven innings.

Wily Peralta (11-15) got the win despite struggling through five-plus innings with a blister on his right index finger.

The Cardinals threatened again in the ninth with two outs. Carlos Beltran had an RBI single, and the Cardinals sent the potential go-ahead run to the plate but closer Jim Henderson got slugger Matt Adams to strike out to end the game and earn his 26th save.

''To say the least, it wasn't real comfortable,'' Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said.

It turned out to be just fine in the end for Milwaukee.

For Sunday night at least, the Cardinals can take brief solace that they've made the playoffs.

''We want to win the division and then go on and go deep into October,'' Adams said before the game.

There was no champagne on ice in the clubhouse for clinching the postseason. No victory cigars were being lit.

The Reds beat the Pirates earlier Sunday 11-3 to draw into a tie for second in the division. The loss by the Cardinals left them with a two-game lead on their division rivals.

Some players in the quiet clubhouse earlier in the day were more engrossed with the Colts-49ers game on the big-screen televisions. Others busily tapped away on their smartphones.

''We're confident. We know we have a good ballclub. Everything's clicking right now,'' Adams said. ''We're happy but we want to keep taking things day by day and then win the division and then go from there.''

Matheny said he learned of the Nationals' loss while in the weight room. There was some chit-chat, but otherwise Matheny decided to hold off a quick conversation about the playoffs until after Sunday night's game.

''We just talked afterward and acknowledged that it's a great accomplishment,'' Matheny said postgame. ''It's tough timing after a loss like that and knowing we still have some work to do. They got it.''

He's feeling spry on his birthday, and not necessarily just because St. Louis is in the lead for a division title.

''This spring, I wasn't so sure I would be able to say that, some back issues,'' Matheny said. ''But I feel really good right now.''

Left fielder Matt Holliday couldn't say the same Sunday night. Initially in the starting lineup, Holliday was scratched because of back spasms. He was replaced by Robinson.

NOTES: LF Matt Holliday was scratched from the starting lineup with back spasms. ... St. Louis has a major league-leading 34 wins from rookie pitchers this season, their most since also getting 34 in 1952. ... Roenicke thinks SS Jean Segura will be available for pinch-hitting duties for the Brewers' three-game set starting Monday in Atlanta. Segura, the NL leader in steals with 44, has been sidelined since Wednesday with a strained right hamstring ... LF Khris Davis was out of the lineup Sunday due to a nagging wrist injury, but is also likely to return to action in Atlanta.

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