Though the Cardinals have their focus on a division title, Saturday presents their first opportunity to clinch a postseason birth.
With a win over Milwaukee and a Pittsburgh loss Friday, the Cardinals now hold a two-game lead over the Pirates and Reds in the National League Central. The win also whittled the Cardinals' magic number down to two over Washington for a Wild Card spot. If the Nationals lose to the Marlins on Saturday and the Cardinals take another in Milwaukee, St. Louis will clinch a postseason appearance.
The Cardinals will send Lance Lynn to the mound Saturday. The right-hander has solidified his place in the rotation with back-to-back strong outings. Lynn's re-emergence as a reliable option on the mound could be arriving at just the right time for St. Louis.
Lynn was 0-5 with a 6.88 ERA in his last six starts before holding Milwaukee to one unearned run on Sept. 11 and then limiting the Rockies to two runs on six hits and a walk his last time out.
"Everything felt good before, but now I'm able to establish what I'm trying to do earlier," Lynn said, "and then get in that rhythm of what I'm about -- attacking hitters and getting right after them and I've been able to do that lately."
Though the Cardinals have dominated the Brewers 13-4 this season, including a 7-1 mark at Miller Park, Milwaukee can still play spoiler to St. Louis' pennant hopes. This weekend's three-game set represents the final road series for St. Louis and the last home series for Milwaukee. For the Brewers, their improved play has time passing much faster than during their first-half struggles.
"When we were playing poorly in May, that was an awful slow month," Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said. "Since we've had the young guys and we've played better, it's moving along quickly. I certainly like that a lot better. When you're in a good frame of mind and you like coming here every day and you feel like you're going to win, it's a lot better."
Brewers: Injuries plague Milwaukee down the stretch
The season is winding down, but the injury bug has yet to let up in Milwaukee. Injuries continues to strike the Brewers as Jean Segura battles a hamstring issue and Khris Davis works his way back from a sore wrist.
It's unclear if Segura will return this season, but Roenicke said he intends to give Davis a start this weekend versus the Cardinals. Jeff Bianchi has filled in at shortstop in Segura's absence and will likely remain there the rest of the way.
With or without their missing players, the Brewers are focused on a strong finish to a down season.
"The injury bug has hit us pretty hard this year, but we've got guys here that can play," Bianchi said. "We've been playing well of late. We took three out of four from Chicago. Just build off that and try to end the season in a good mode. We're just going out and playing hard and seeing what happens."
Cardinals: Adams returns to lineup, smashes two-run homer
Sporting a new bulky elbow brace, Matt Adams announced his return Friday by crushing a two-run homer in the ninth inning of Friday's win.
Adams exited Wednesday's game in Colorado early due to right elbow inflammation and was held out Thursday. Searching for answers with Allen Craig sidelined and Carlos Beltran struggling in the cleanup spot, manager Mike Matheny slotted Adams into the four-hole Friday, marking just his second career start batting fourth.
"We need to get Carlos going," Matheny said before the game. "That's all there is to it. For whatever reason, in that second spot, he's had good success. We want him feeling right. [We're] trying to make small changes here and there and get somebody going in the right direction. You never know."
Beltran was 1-for-4 Friday with two RBIs, a walk and a run, with his RBI sacrifice fly in the 10th inning providing the game-winning run.
• Milwaukee's Saturday starter Yovani Gallardo has historically struggled against St. Louis, amassing a 1-10 record and a 6.78 ERA in 16 career regular-season starts against the NL Central foe.
• St. Louis reliever John Axford received a warm welcome in his first return to the Miller Park mound Friday. Axford, who played his first five big league seasons in Milwaukee, entered the game with the bases loaded in the ninth and allowed the tying run before closing the frame with a double play.
Michael Blazek, who the Cardinals dealt for Axford on Aug. 30, earned the loss by allowing the go-ahead run in the 10th.
• Matt Carpenter hit his 53rd double of the year Friday, tying Stan Musial for most doubles by a Cardinals left-hander in a single season.
Chad Thornburg is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.