The resurgent Milwaukee Brewers will continue their push for a playoff berth when they visit the St. Louis Cardinals Tuesday.
The Brewers (75-66) won four of their last five games heading into this two-game series at Busch Stadium. Prior to that, they had gone 14-21 since the end of July.
“It was a tough stretch for us in the second half,” Brewers first baseman Rowdy Tellez told MLB.com. “But we’re still in the hunt, we’re still in the push.”
Despite its recent surge, Milwaukee came out of the weekend eight games back of the first-place Cardinals (83-58) in the National League Central and two games back of the San Diego Padres for the final NL wild-card slot.
After falling into a protracted funk after the trade deadline, the Brewers tried to relieve some pressure with more clubhouse fun and games.
“It’s to loosen up a little bit, man,” pitcher Brandon Woodruff said. “Playing ping-pong with your teammates or shooting some hoops, it’s a little friendly competition to keep things light and keep your mind off the game. Instead of sitting around in our chairs and on our phones, we’re having some fun and enjoying each other’s company. I think that’s a big part of it.”
Milwaukee manager Craig Counsell decided to give starting pitcher Corbin Burnes an extra day of rest, so the Brewers expect to use a string of relievers with a bullpen start Tuesday.
The Cardinals returned home after taking their last two games from the Pirates in Pittsburgh. After going 22-7 in August, they are 7-3 in September.
Cardinals designated hitter/first baseman Albert Pujols hit two home runs and drove in five runs in those victories in Pittsburgh. He hit his 697th career homer Sunday to move past Alex Rodriguez into sole possession of fourth on the all-time list, behind Barry Bonds (762), Hank Aaron (755) and Babe Ruth (714).
“When you look at his career, it could be as good as any there’s ever been,” Cardinals first baseman Paul Goldschmidt told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “This year shows it. He’s not really slowing down. How many homers is that? Eighteen? It’s not like he’s just hanging on out there.
“Best hitter I’ve ever seen, that’s for sure.”
The last time the Cardinals and Brewers got together, on Aug. 14, Pujols hammered two home runs, Nos. 688 and 689 of his career.
The Cardinals will start left-hander Jordan Montgomery (8-3, 3.08 ERA) Tuesday. He has gone 5-0 with a 1.45 ERA in seven starts with the Cardinals since arriving in a trade with the New York Yankees. St. Louis has won all seven of his starts.
Montgomery earned a 3-1 victory over the Brewers on Aug. 12. He blanked them for six innings on four hits while striking out eight batters and walking two.
Cardinals manager Oliver Marmol expects to have Goldschmidt and third baseman Nolan Arenado back in the lineup after giving them a break Sunday ahead of the team’s off-day Monday.
“Obviously, you tend to score more when ‘Goldy’ and Nolan are in there, but you’re also valuing the rest and both of those guys have gone extremely hard with no off days,” Marmol told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “If they both can recharge for 48 hours and go on another run, I think that benefits us more than having one of them in there (Sunday).”
–Field Level Media