The St. Louis Cardinals and visiting Milwaukee Brewers will be battling for playoff berths when they conclude their five-game series Sunday.
"It's the game to watch," Brewers manager Craig Counsell said.
The Cardinals (29-28) and Brewers (29-30) split the first four games at Busch Stadium. TheBrewers staved off potential elimination with their 3-0 victory Saturday, and they must win this game to have any chance of reaching the National League bracket.
"This is a mode we've been in for the past four Septembers," Counsell said. "For players who have been around, this is no different."
The Cardinals remain percentage points ahead of the Cincinnati Reds (30-29) for second place in the NL Central, and one game ahead of the fourth-place Brewers. The Cardinals hope to punch their playoff ticket Sunday and avoid heading back on the road to play one or even a doubleheader of makeup games against the Detroit Tigers on Monday.
That trip will only be necessary if the Cardinals finish Sunday tied for a postseason slot. They have played two fewer games than the other playoff contenders due to their earlier COVID-19 postponements.
The Cardinals will start left-hander Austin Gomber (1-1, 1.80 ERA) on Sunday. He spent most of the season in the bullpen, then moved into the rotation when season-ending injuries took out Dakota Hudson (elbow) and Carlos Martinez (oblique).
"That's kind of been the role that I've been in this year, bouncing back and forth, but the way I look at it is it's better to be involved than not be involved, right?" Gomber said. "So whatever they want me to do, I'll be fine with. Obviously, losing Dak, it's tough. He's been really good for us this year, really good last year. For me taking his start tonight, I was just trying to do what Dak has been doing."
Gomber made those comments coming off a 5-0 victory over the Kansas City Royals. He allowed just four hits in six innings and induced 11 grounders.
His only appearance against the Brewers this season came in relief, when he retired one batter and walked one batter during a 2-1 loss on Sept. 14.
Gomber has made three appearances, including one as a starter, against Milwaukee. He is 0-1 with a 9.64 ERA in 4 2/3 innings, including giving up two home runs.
The Brewers will counter with Brett Anderson (4-3, 4.00 ERA). His earlier start against the Cardinals was a breeze. He allowed two runs on five hits over six innings as the Brewers rolled to an 18-3 victory.
He followed that with a critical 3-2 victory over the Cincinnati Reds. He allowed a solo homer and three other hits in six innings. Anderson coaxed 11 grounders in each of those last two starts.
"My fastball velocity wasn't much different, but my slider was the best it's been in probably years," Anderson said after that game.
Anderson has made three starts in his career against the Cardinals, going 1-2 with 2.75 ERA in 19 2/3 innings.
Both teams come into the game seeking more offense. Ryan Braun sparked the Brewers on Saturday night with a solo homer that broke the scoreless tie. The next batter, Daniel Vogelbach, then also homered.
"It's not going to be one player that does it," Counsell said. "It's not going to be Ryan Braun that does it. It could be Jedd (Gyorko). It could be Avisail Garcia. It could be Omar Narvaez. We've got to score runs. It's a collective effort to do it. Waiting for Ryan Braun to be the only guy to get that big hit, it's not a great formula to play offense with, I don't think."
--Field Level Media