The Milwaukee Brewers are eyeing a spot in the postseason.
First, they need to get back to .500.
Aramis Ramirez goes for another strong performance at the plate as the Brewers attempt to continue gaining ground on the St. Louis Cardinals in the NL wild-card race by sweeping this three-game set Sunday.
Milwaukee (69-70) has won 15 of 19, reviving its postseason hopes after winning the NL Central last year.
The Brewers are five games back of St. Louis (74-65) for the league's second wild-card spot, but are also chasing Los Angeles and Pittsburgh in the standings.
Despite their recent charge, the Brewers have not been .500 since they were 9-9 on April 24. To get there, they'll need to sweep their first three-game series at Busch Stadium since Oct. 2-4, 2009.
"We've got a good shot," Ramirez said of the postseason chances. "We've got to keep playing good baseball. We played good at home, we played good the last two road trips."
Ramirez is also playing well, hitting .415 with five homers and 18 RBIs in 14 games. The third baseman went 3 for 3 with a solo homer, a double, two runs and two walks to power Saturday's 6-3 win over the Cardinals.
He missed two games with a lower back strain, including a 5-4, 13-inning victory to open this series Friday.
"It's hard to keep him out of the lineup when he does the things he does," manager Ron Roenicke said. "I want to take care of him when he's hurt. He came in (Saturday) and told me he's playing."
Ramirez was batting .218 average with two homers as of May 18, but he's since hit 20 homers while raising his season average to .300.
He's hitting .375 in 11 season meetings with the Cardinals.
Ryan Braun is also on a torrid pace offensively with a .414 average and 15 RBIs in 13 games. The reigning NL MVP has five hits in this series, highlighted by his go-ahead homer Friday.
Shaun Marcum (5-4, 3.53 ERA) is expected to face St. Louis for the first time since getting hammered in a 12-6 home loss in Game 6 of last year's NL championship series that eliminated the Brewers.
Marcum was hammered for four runs in the opening inning before getting pulled. He also lost Game 2 while giving up five runs in four innings.
Overall, the right-hander went 1-3 with a 6.10 ERA in six starts against St. Louis in 2011.
He enters this meeting with an 0-1 record and 4.30 ERA in three starts since returning from right elbow tightness that landed him on the disabled list for two months.
His latest outing ended in an 8-4 win at Miami, but he didn't get a decision despite being staked to a two-run lead after two innings. He allowed four runs and seven hits - two homers - before leaving with two outs in the sixth.
The Cardinals have dropped eight of 11, and are scheduled to send Joe Kelly (5-6, 3.54) to the mound. The rookie right-hander is 2-0 with a 2.41 ERA in his last three home games - two starts.
That strong stretch continued Monday, when he tossed six scoreless innings before giving up a two-run homer and being pulled with two outs in the seventh of a 5-4 win over New York. Kelly helped himself by scoring a run after getting his first career double in his second outing since returning to the rotation.
"I thought it was his best stuff of the season," manager Mike Matheny told the team's official website.
Kelly has split two starts with the Brewers, compiling a 3.86 ERA. He won the most recent matchup at home Aug. 3, yielding three runs and 10 hits in 5 2-3 innings of a 9-3 victory.
|July 29, 2012||Aramis Ramirez||Day-to-Day||Sore left wrist|
|July 17, 2012||Ryan Braun||Day-to-Day||Right thigh strain|
|June 15, 2012||Shaun Marcum||60-Day DL||Right elbow tightness|
|June 15, 2012||Shaun Marcum||60-Day DL||Right elbow tightness|
|June 02, 2012||Aramis Ramirez||Day-to-Day||Left game - strained left quadricep|
|May 31, 2012||Ryan Braun||Day-to-Day||Tight Achilles|
|St. Louis Cardinals|
|September 09, 2012||Matt Carpenter||Day-to-Day||Cut hand|
|August 31, 2012||Rafael Furcal||15-Day DL||Torn UCL, right elbow - out for season|
|August 30, 2012||Rafael Furcal||Day-to-Day||Left game - right elbow strain|
|August 28, 2012||Yadier Molina||Day-to-Day||Left game - strained upper back|
|August 25, 2012||David Freese||Day-to-Day||Left wrist contusion|
|August 25, 2012||Yadier Molina||Day-to-Day||Sprained ankle|
ST. LOUIS (AP) -- Matt Carpenter picked up another series of cuts to his already beat-up hand on Sunday.
Not that the St. Louis backup is complaining.
Carpenter scored the winning run with a picture-perfect slide on Allen Craig 's single in the 10th inning, giving the Cardinals a 5-4 win over the Milwaukee Brewers .
The Cardinals broke a three-game losing streak and avoided a three-game sweep. St. Louis held onto its slim lead for the second NL wild-card spot.
The Brewers, who have won 15 of 20, tied it in the ninth on Norichika Aoki 's two-out, two-run homer off closer Jason Motte . The two-strike drive barely cleared the right-field wall.
Carpenter singled with one out in the 10th off Kameron Loe (6-5) and moved up on a wild pitch. Craig singled to right field with two outs and Carpenter barely eluded the tag from catcher Jonathan Lucroy after a strong throw by Aoki.
"I had an angle and I just tried to avoid the tag and thankfully I got in there," Carpenter said. "I got some new blood from that."
Carpenter sustained five cuts on his hands Saturday when his bat shattered in a 6-3 loss. He left the game in the third inning as blood dripped from his hands.
Carpenter showed up early Sunday and went through some hitting and throwing drills to prove to manager Mike Matheny that he was fit to play.
"The work ethic he has, the energy he brings, he's a very good teammate," Matheny said.
Carpenter used a super glue to tape his skin back in place on one of the cuts. He simply taped the others shut.
Now, thanks to his game-winning slide, he has two other cuts and one huge scrape on his bruised hands.
"It's sore, but it's nothing that would keep me out," he said. "Once you get that adrenaline going, you don't think about it."
Craig recorded his first career walk-off hit, thanks in part to Carpenter's hustle.
"It's a great feeling," Craig said. "The last few days haven't been so great. It was good to battle back after a tough game."
The loss slowed the Brewers, who were trying to reach the .500 mark for the first time since April 24.
Milwaukee manager Ron Roenicke was pleased with his team's performance and its ability to bounce back in the ninth.
"We played a really good game today, they just came through with a really big hit," he said. "I'm OK with the three games we just played."
Lance Lynn (14-7) picked up the win with one inning of scoreless relief.
Matt Holliday hit a two-run homer, his 26th, off Shaun Marcum . One out later, Carlos Beltran hit his 29th home run and first since Aug. 10.
Beltran ended an 0-for-14 slump. He had not gotten an extra-base hit in his previous 49 at-bats.
"It was good for me to go out there and get a couple hits," Beltran said. "Lately, it's been a battle at the plate."
St. Louis pushed the lead to 4-1 in the second on doubles by pitcher Joe Kelly and Carpenter.
Milwaukee climbed to 4-2 in the fourth on singles by Corey Hart , Jonathan Lucroy and Jean Segura .
Segura, who had a career-high three hits, doubled with one out in the ninth off Motte. One out later, Aoki hit his eighth home run.
NOTES: Brewers OF Ryan Braun left in the sixth with a sore wrist. 1B Corey Hart , who has a hit in his last 11 games against St. Louis, left the game after twisting his ankle on the last play of the fourth inning. "He tweaked it a little bit and he's got a mild sprain," Roenicke said. Braun and Hart were listed as day-to-day. ... Cardinals 3B David Freese missed the game with a mild left ankle sprain. He is considered day-to-day. ... St. Louis reliever Edward Mujica pitched a scoreless seventh inning. He has not allowed a run in 18 appearances since coming to the Cardinals in a July 31 trade. ... The Cardinals improved 4-10 in extra innings. ... St. Louis opens a seven-game road trip at San Diego on Monday. Jaime Garcia (4-6, 4.16) will face Eric Stults (5-2, 2.35). ... Milwaukee begins a six-game homestand against Atlanta. Wily Peralta (1-0, 5.14) takes on Mike Minor (8-10, 4.58).