The Milwaukee Brewers closed out their home schedule in style Sunday night, beating the playoff-bound St. Louis Cardinals in front of a national television audience, 6-3, at Miller Park.
The Cardinals clinched a playoff berth earlier on Sunday when the Washington Nationals lost to the Miami Marlins. With the loss, St. Louis’ magic number for clinching the National League Central stayed at five; the Cardinals lead both the Cincinnati Reds and Pittsburgh Pirates by two games.
Norichika Aoki had a big night—and a big series—for the Brewers. Milwaukee’s leadoff hitter reached base in each of his four plate appearances and scored three times while also driving in a run. In the three-game set with the Cardinals, Aoki was 8-for-11 with three walks, scoring six runs.
St. Louis was uncharacteristically sloppy in this one, committing three errors in a game for the first time since Sept. 24, 2012, against the Houston Astros; three of Milwaukee’s six runs were unearned.
The Brewers got it going quickly against Joe Kelly—who has only lost two starts since joining the rotation on July 6—both to Milwaukee. Aoki led off with a single and Jonathan Lucroy doubled off the glove of third baseman David Freese to put a pair of runners in scoring position.
Aramis Ramirez lined a single to left to score the first run and the second scored when Carlos Gomez hit a comebacker to Kelly that the pitcher double clutched before throwing to second to force Ramirez. Gomez beat the relay, though, and it was 2-0.
In the second, Milwaukee doubled the lead. Martin Maldonado reached on a one-out error by Freese, advanced to second on Wily Peralta’s sacrifice and scored when Aoki doubled to the wall in left field. Gennett laid down a bunt that Kelly threw away over first base. Aoki scored on the error to make it 4-0.
Matt Carpenter got the Cardinals on the board with a one-out homer in the third. Carpenter, who leads the NL in runs and hits, belted his 11th homer of the year over the wall in right.
Peralta struggled with command off and on all night and finally got into trouble in the sixth, when he allowed three straight hits to start the inning. Donovan Hand came out of the bullpen and got three straight outs, but Shane Robinson and Kelly each lifted sacrifice flies to right field to close the gap to 4-3.
Peralta (11-15) worked five-plus innings, allowing three runs on five hits with five walks and three strikeouts. He also hit a batter and threw a wild pitch.
Hand stabilized things, retiring all six batters he faced in the sixth and seventh while recording three strikeouts.
The Brewers got the knockout punch in the seventh. With one out, Aoki walked and scored when Gennett hammered a double to the wall in center field. Gennett moved up to third when the throw back in from the outfield was basically ignored by catcher Yadier Molina and then skipped by Kelly, who was supposed to be backing up the play. Lucroy made the Cardinals pay for the mistake with a sacrifice fly to left that gave Milwaukee a 6-3 lead.
After Brandon Kintzler worked a 1-2-3 eighth, Jim Henderson got two quick outs to start the top of the ninth. Carpenter, though, lined a single to center and Jon Jay followed with a bloop that fell just in front of Gomez in center field. Carlos Beltran lined a single up the middle to score Carpenter, bringing up Matt Adams as the potential go-ahead run.
Adams had homered in each of the first two games of the series and in two previous at-bats against Henderson had hit two home runs. But Henderson won the battle, striking out Adams looking to pick up his 26th save.
The Brewers finished the season just 5-14 against St. Louis, including a 2-8 mark at Miller Park. The Crew closes the season on the road, beginning a three-game series against the Atlanta Braves at Turner Field on Monday night. The Braves, who clinched the NL East crown on Sunday, are still battling for home-field advantage in the NL playoffs and will start Mike Minor (13-7) while Milwaukee is scheduled to start Marco Estrada (6-4).
Game time is 6:10 p.m. Central Time on Fox Sports Wisconsin.
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