ST. LOUIS -- There is no longer any margin for error, but there is still hope for the Brewers, who ensured themselves of another day in the National League Wild Card race with a 5-3 win over the Cardinals at Busch Stadium on Friday.
Boosted by batterymates Stephen Vogt and Chase Anderson, the Brewers cruised to their 85th win while facing a Cardinals club that, for the first time since 2010, entered a regular-season game with October out of their sights. In contrast, the Brewers had everything on the line.
With the Rockies' rout of the Dodgers plastered on the out-of-town scoreboard, Milwaukee knew it had to win on Friday in order to stay in contention for the last unsettled postseason berth. The Rockies shaved their magic number to one with the win, meaning the best the Brewers can hope for is a play-in game Monday. Getting there will require a sweep of this series and two weekend wins by the Dodgers.
"We're alive with two days to go," Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. "We'll take it. We'll have fun playing [Saturday] and know it means something."
The Brewers' offense spark came from Vogt, who, despite playing through a knee injury, drove in runs in each of his first three at-bats. Vogt highlighted his night with his 12th home run, one of four runs charged to Cardinals spot starter John Gant.
As for Anderson, the starter closed out his breakout year with his first seven-inning outing since June 17. He completed a 12-win season by holding the Cardinals to one run on three hits and registering 14 ground-ball outs. The victory was Anderson's first in six career starts at Busch Stadium, and the Brewers finished 14-11 behind him.
Anderson's performance could have a carryover effect. Even with an expanded September bullpen, his innings spared all but Jeremy Jeffress and closer Corey Knebel work on Friday ahead of an all-hands-on-deck bullpen game Saturday.
"The biggest thing is, we've had a great season so far, regardless of what happens … it's been very impressive," Anderson said. "A lot of people didn't expect us to be in this position this early in this rebuilding process, and we're here. It's something definitely to build off of."
The Brewers won the season series over the Cardinals with their 10th victory Friday and sealed a second-place finish in the NL Central. The Cards will settle for third place, the team's worst finish since 2008.
"Even though we're out of the competition, we're trying to win some games," said Cardinals first baseman Jose Martinez, who connected for a two-run homer off Knebel in the ninth. "We're playing hard, trying to make something happen every time. It's been a long year, and everybody here [made] a point of trying to go out there and win."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Long gone: After singling home a run in the second, Vogt padded the Brewers' lead with a two-out solo homer in the fourth. Getting to trot around the bases was a welcome reprieve for the catcher, who is receiving extensive treatment on his ailing knee before and after games to limit the swelling and discomfort. The homer was Milwaukee's 221st this season, the most by a Brewers club since 2007.
"I was put in some situations with runners in scoring position, so credit to the guys in front of me," Vogt said.
Fine company: A night after having a potential game-tying home run robbed, Paul DeJong drove a fastball out of reach on Friday to register his team-leading 25th home run. Twenty of those blasts have come as a shortstop, which ties DeJong with Cal Ripken Jr. for eighth on the position's all-time list by a rookie. DeJong's homer briefly pulled the Cardinals to within one.
"He's a legend, a Hall of Famer, any list I can be on with him is a great honor," DeJong said. "These games still matter for your totals for your season and your career. I'm going to still play hard and help my team win as much as I can."
"We can play spoilers. Chicago spoiled us; we can spoil them. We'll go out there and try to prepare to win like we always do. These games still matter and you still feel like you have something to prove every time you go out there." -- DeJong
UPON FURTHER REVIEW
The Cardinals used their challenge unsuccessfully in the fourth after Tommy Pham was thrown out at first by third baseman Travis Shaw. In question was whether first baseman Eric Thames kept his foot on the base as he received the throw. The call was confirmed after 38 seconds.
WHAT'S NEXT Brewers: It's another "bullpen game" for the Brewers on Saturday at 3:15 p.m. CT, with Junior Guerra leading the way. He was Milwaukee's Opening Day starter but was demoted to the Minors by the end of July, and has pitched in relief since the Brewers made him a September callup. If Guerra can get through the order once, that might be enough to position the Brewers to cover the rest of the game with relief arms.
Cardinals:Luke Weaver will make the final start of his breakout rookie season Saturday when the Cardinals host the Brewers. Weaver, who had a string of seven consecutive wins snapped in his last start, is 2-0 with a 3.00 ERA against Milwaukee this year.